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The Top 10 Tech Scares of the Decade

The past 10 years saw some terrifying technology

The dawn of the new millennium prompted fears about the future, but so far reality has not quite matched the predictions of catastrophe. The first ten years passed uneventfully - well, aside from Y2K and a bunch of intelligent computer viruses. Here's a look back at the past decade, and ten of the most terrifying tech scares.

6. ILOVEYOU virus

Year: 2000
Predicted outcome: Not applicable
Actual outcome: Over 50 million computers infected; over $5.5bn in damages

The ILOVEYOU virus was a computer worm that spread via email. Similar to other email worms, the virus required that users run the executable file (written in Visual Basic Scripting, or VBS). To induce victims to do so, the worm disguised itself as a text file by putting .TXT into its name; when people saw that the file was called "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs," they thought they were opening a harmless text file.

Once the victim opened the file, the worm would send copies of the email to the first 50 contacts in the user's Windows Address Book, and then make changes to the system (it would overwrite a number of files, including all .JPG and .DOC files, with copies of itself).

The ILOVEYOU virus was particularly effective for two reasons: It was sent from 'safe' senders (those already in the recipient's address book), and the file resembled a text file. As a result, the virus managed to reach an estimated 50 million computers (only Windows computers were affected) and cause an estimated $5.5bn in damages –Parliament, along with the Pentagon and the CIA in the US, all had to shut down their email systems.

Just a day after the virus started spreading, police in the Philippines arrested two computer programming students. Unfortunately, the authorities were unable to convict the two of any crime, as there was no law, at the time, against writing malicious code.

7. Technology crashes planes

Years: 2000 - Present
Predicted outcome: Planes falling out of the sky
Actual outcome: Lies

That's right, you may not be allowed to take bottled water or your nail file on a flight, but you can take your smartphone - despite the fact that the in-flight crew will warn all passengers to turn off their mobile phones for the duration of the flight or face dire consequences.

There has never been any documented case of a phone causing interference with a plane's navigation system. Obviously - do you really think that they'd let everybody waltz onto a 500ton metal aircraft with a potential bomb in their pocket? That would certainly make terrorists' jobs a lot easier.

8. Witty Worm

Year: 2004
Predicted outcome: Not applicable
Actual outcome: First worm to carry a destructive payload; infected 12,000 machines

The Witty worm, first detected in 2004, was an important, scary computer virus for a number of reasons - namely, it was the first worm to carry a malicious 'payload' that slowly destroyed the host computers it infected.

Although Witty infected only about 12,000 machines - none of them home PCs - the worm was still a pretty big deal. It exploited a hole in Internet Security Systems firewall and security software packages, and it spread rapidly just days after the vulnerability was announced. The worm was called the 'Witty' worm because the payload featured the phrase '(^.^) insert witty message here (^.^)'.

The worm was particularly frightening for network administrators because it infected computers that should have been more secure (because of the ISS software).

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