Here at Catchword, part of the onboarding process is to take the Namer’s Oath, swearing to only use our naming powers for the forces of good. While we’re proud to report we’ve had a 100% naming-for-good retention rate, not everyone in this world is woven from such strong moral fibers. Inevitably, some are tempted to The Dark Side. Yes, even the wicked need names. Join me on an epidemiological, etymological excursion as I explore some of the most evocatively evil names out there: computer viruses.
Spelling things backwards isn’t usually a naming strategy we recommend to our clients, but plenty of brands have used it – Harpo Productions, Oprah Winfrey’s Production Company, for example. If used effectively, it can create an association that makes the name more memorable. The Nimda Virus, Admin spelled backwards, hit the Internet in 2011. Its main purpose was merely to bring Internet traffic to a crawl. Not the most elegant tonality, but the backwards spelling conveys an encrypted sneakiness that we associate with computer viruses.
Sometimes called Love Letter, this one spread through emails with the eponymous subject line, which of course piqued recipients’ curiosity. Once opened, it pounced, rewriting files all over the computer. It caused billions of dollars of damage worldwide, just like real love. While it’s a slightly awkward execution of a phrase made into a name, I’m amused by the juxtaposition of the innocence of the phrase and the eagerness of the all caps, like an evil robot trying to convince you that its love is real.
7) The Anna Kournikova Worm
The Anna Kournikova worm posed, in all senses of the word, as a picture of the tennis player, but was in fact a virus written by an obsessed admirer from the Netherlands. The virus propagated itself by forwarding to all the contacts of anyone who downloaded the photo. I like this name because of its seeming innocuousness. Just when you thought your friend was emailing you another harmless Anna Kournikova picture, your hardrive gets an overhead slam. A little long, though.
In 2009, a new computer worm crawled its way into millions of PCs around the world, creating a massive army of remotely controlled computers capable of stealing financial data. The name is a portmanteau of ‘configure’ and the German pejorative ficker, which means what you think it means. Props to this one for exploring foreign languages and creating an evocative, bilingual virus name.
Named after an exotic dancer from Florida, this virus was the brainchild of David L. Smith. It was spread through email and often inserted quotes from The Simpsons into your Word documents. With so many companies taking on first names, like Oscar and Casper, this 1999 virus would fit in well with today’s hip, approachable startups
Zeus, the dispenser of good and evil, dished out some evil this time. This virus could read your online forms and log your keystrokes, stealing valuable information. All in all, it stole about $70 million from victims around the world. Although, mythology is generally well-trodden naming territory, it’s compelling, memorable, and remained unexplored in the virus naming space.
This one was actually a preemptive measure meant to prevent virus attacks. The OpenSSL cryptography library disclosed this bug, urging users to update vulnerable software that could be exploited by hackers. They even made a logo and a website about it. Now that’s some viral branding!
This virus has made headlines recently. By encrypting all the files on a victim’s computer and then holding them ransom, victims must pay the hackers, in Bitcoins of course, or all their files will be permanently destroyed. Having extorted money from grandmas to government agencies, many cybersecurity experts reluctantly admit that paying the ransom is the only way to get one’s files back. A suggestive, compound name that nicely communicates the goods and services offered.
1) Storm Worm
Using fake news headlines to get recipients to open an email, this Trojan Horse (another great virus term) turns computers into bots that can be controlled remotely by the person behind the attack to send spam mail across the Internet. I like the slant rhyme, I dig the nefariousness. ‘Storm’ suggests destruction while ‘worm’ suggests stealthy infection, all in two syllables. Great job, evil masterminds.