What is a computer worm and how does it spread?

computer worm

A computer worm is one of the oldest malware. It’s about a malicious software which is capable of running, replicating and extending at high speed without the user interacting with it. In fact, the equipment does not even have to be active for it to replicate.

Difference between worm and virus

For this reason, worms are dangerous software. When they arrive at a host machine, they have the ability on their own to proliferate without the need for external actions. This is one of the big differences they have with the computer viruses.

Another point that differentiates them from viruses is that a worm does not usually infect the files on a computer, but instead infects another computer on the network.

To kill a virus you need one of the best antivirus on the market, although not all of them have the ability to kill a worm. It is often necessary to use other IT tools to combat them, such as firewalls.

What was the first computer worm

The first worm known in history is called Morris Worma worm that was created in 1988 by Robert Tappan Morris and infected a large number of servers.

Although its creator did not intend to cause harm, this worm caused a massive equipment collapse causing high financial losses. In this way, Morris became not only the person who named the first worm, but also the first person to be convicted by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, or the CFAA, for its acronym in English.

How computer worms work

In the beginning, worms entered the network through physical means: for example, through already obsolete floppy diskswhen these were introduced into a team.

However, this technique has also continued to be put into practice today, but instead of using a floppy disk, using a seemingly harmless USB memory. Of course, the most common thing is that computer worms currently spread electronically, through instant messaging or email, among others.

The main objective of computer worms is replicate its harmful content and infect as many devices as possible hindering its operation. On the other hand, a big drawback is that identifying them in time and stopping their spread is not easy.

How computer worms reproduce

But how do they infiltrate? What they do is look for possible vulnerabilities in the operating systems of the devices and once inside, they are reproduced and distributed through different media.

In this way, depending on the way in which worms spread through a computer, different types are distinguished: email worms, instant messaging worms, file sharing worms, Internet worms…

A very common way to spread them is to send a phishing email or SMS with infected files. What criminals dedicated to this do is try to introduce the worm through these means, but without the user noticing.

To do this, they put Names in emails or attachments that seem harmless, such as “urgent” or “invoice”. They can also use current topics or striking topics.

When the victim receives the email or SMS and opens the link or attachment, the worm is downloaded to the computer and it is a matter of time before it begins to spread.

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