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How Are Computer Viruses Made?

by Purva Jagtap
How Are Computer Viruses Made?

Did you know that the AV-TEST institute logs more than 350,000 new pieces of malware every day?

Any time you log onto your computer, you’re at risk of falling victim to one of these attacks. Thankfully, there are certain ways you can stay one step ahead of these would-be assailants.

One of the ways is to know the answer to the question, “How are computer viruses made?” Understanding the work that goes into creating a virus can give you deeper insight into how they operate and the ways you can safeguard your system. 

Step 1: Identifying a Vulnerable Operating System

As you might expect, virus developers begin by looking for operating systems that are vulnerable to an outside attack. Today, modern cybersecurity programs keep newer OS models relatively protected, but this isn’t the case across the board. 

Take older models of Microsoft Windows, for instance. Though it isn’t a universal rule, many people still relying on legacy Windows systems tend to skip over routine security and maintenance updates. As such, this leaves their computers riddled with security gaps that hackers can quickly identify and infiltrate. 

Looking for a more secure computer that you can trust? Mac and Linux operating systems are considered among the most protected, chiefly due to their permissions system and OS architecture. 

Step 2: Select a Delivery Method

Once a hacker decides where to put a virus, the next step is to determine how it will spread. After all, a virus is only effective and detrimental if infected users unknowingly share it with others. 

This process is known as identifying a delivery method. There are a few different ones that hackers can choose from. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common ones. 

Macro

Macros are virus-containing programs that a hacker will embed into an email, or create as a document attachment. These are usually designed to target macro-enabled products within the Microsoft Office suite, including Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook. 

Usually, the virus is delivered to a recipient as an email. The infected document is added to the email as an attachment. 

Executable Files

Have you ever seen any of the following letters at the end of a file name or program name:

  • .EXE
  • .COM
  • .BAT

These are executable files, which are used to perform a specific function on a desktop or laptop. A user has to click and open them for them to work. For this reason, hackers will often disguise an executable file as an image or another document to get that click. 

Web Script

The above two delivery methods require user activation. If you receive a malicious email, document, or image and you delete and report it immediately without opening it, then your system should be safe. 

On the other hand, web scripts work a little differently.

Hackers will inject these individual pieces of malicious code into a website, affecting it in a matter of seconds. All of this is done behind the webmaster’s back, so innocent web users are none the wiser. When you visit the site, your computer could be compromised.

Step 3: Setting Action

What does the hacker want the virus to do? Are they looking to steal valuable personal information from a user’s computer? Or, is the goal to wipe the system clean and delete all the files?

This is an important consideration that the creator of the virus will need to consider. They’ll eventually write these actions into the code. 

Step 4: Research Security Gaps

Rarely do virus creators work alone. In most cases, they’re closely connected with a larger group of malicious computer users who seek to spread destruction and breed frustration. 

Once they’ve chosen which OS to target and how to deliver the virus, these developers will then search for the most vulnerable spot on the system. If they can choose the exact right spot, then their odds of a successful attack are much higher. 

To determine where these weaknesses lie, they’ll often visit online chat forums and ask for advice from other web users in their same space. Though this step can be time-consuming, it does help hackers learn even more about the OS they tend to attack.

The good news? Proactive computer owners can take their own preventative measures, too. Just as coders and hackers spend time researching how to attack your system, you can learn how to identify and remove any viruses, as well as programs that could become vulnerable to them.

For instance, did you know that some viruses can even pose as legitimate sites and add-ons for programs such as Amazon AWS? You can find resources online to help you sidestep this risk, including this tutorial on how to remove AmazonAWS virus

Step 5: Write the Virus

Writing a virus is more difficult than it might sound. To create one that does what it’s supposed to do, the hacker will need to have a basic understanding of at least one scripting tool or computer language. For the most part, each language corresponds with a specific delivery method.

For instance, to make a macro virus, the hacker would learn the language of the targeted program (e.g. Microsoft Office). Conversely, executable viruses are usually written in C or C++. The process of writing a computer virus code can be laborious and time-consuming, especially for a first-timer.

It can also range in scope from simple to incredibly complex. More advanced coders may try different and unique approaches to keep users on their toes. For instance, they might use polymorphic code, which alters the core code of the virus each time it’s shared and replicated. 

How Are Computer Viruses Made? Learn and Protect Yourself

You’ve heard the adage about the value of an ounce of prevention. If you’ve ever wondered, “How are computer viruses made?”, then this quick guide should provide the high-level details you need.

Now that you’ve taken a step into the mind of a hacker, you can look for ways to protect your computer system at every turn. Above all, make sure to stay up-to-date on all of the maintenance and security updates provided for your OS. 

Looking for more helpful business and tech advice you can trust? Keep scrolling our blog for the information you need!

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