Spam Examples (2024): The 4 Worst Attacks of All Time

By Tibor Moes / Updated: January 2024

Spam Examples (2023): The 10 Worst Attacks of All Time

Spam has evolved from a mere annoyance to a significant cybersecurity threat, impacting millions of users worldwide. In this article, we explore the four most catastrophic spam attacks in history, providing detailed insights and statistics to understand their magnitude and impact.


Spam refers to unsolicited digital communications, often carrying harmful content like viruses and malware.

  • Melissa Virus (1999): This virus rapidly spread through email systems, causing major disruptions worldwide. The estimated damage was around $80 million, mostly for system cleanup and repair.
  • ILOVEYOU Worm (2000): Disguised as a love letter, this worm infected over ten million Windows PCs. It highlighted the vulnerability of personal computers and user trust.
  • SoBig Worm (2003): This email-borne worm caused extensive disruption, leading to a global damage of $5.6 billion. It showcased the economic impact of malware on a massive scale.
  • MyDoom Worm (2004): Known as one of the worst viruses, MyDoom caused an estimated $38 billion in damages and infected about 50 million computers. Its reach and destructive capacity marked a significant shift in cyber threats.

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Spam Examples

1. Melissa Virus (1999)

In the spring of 1999, the digital world faced one of its first major security crises: the Melissa virus. This virus, disguised as an innocent email attachment, rapidly spread through email systems, causing unprecedented disruption.

The FBI reports that the collective damage caused by the Melissa virus was estimated at around $80 million​​. This staggering figure primarily stemmed from the extensive cleanup and repair efforts required to restore the affected computer systems.

What made Melissa particularly damaging was not just its widespread reach, but the speed at which it propagated. The virus would send itself to the first 50 contacts in the victim’s Microsoft Outlook address book, exponentially increasing its spread.

Businesses and government agencies were forced into a standstill as they grappled with the havoc wreaked by Melissa, marking it as a significant milestone in the history of cyber threats.

2. ILOVEYOU Worm (2000)

Just a year after the Melissa virus, the digital world was rocked yet again by another devastating cyber threat: the ILOVEYOU worm. This worm, camouflaged as a love letter, infiltrated over ten million Windows personal computers starting on May 5, 2000​​.

The worm was not only a testament to the vulnerability of personal computers at the time but also highlighted the human factor in cybersecurity – the tendency of users to trust seemingly harmless files.

The ILOVEYOU worm was more than just a nuisance; it was a destructive force that overwrote files, made copies of itself, and even hid as different file types to evade detection. The simplicity of its design belied its effectiveness, making it one of the most infamous examples of how psychological manipulation – in this case, exploiting the curiosity and trust of users – can be a powerful tool in spreading malware.

3. SoBig Worm (2003)

In 2003, the cyber world encountered a formidable enemy: the SoBig worm. This sophisticated piece of malware caused an upheaval in the digital realm, leading to an estimated $5.6 billion in damages worldwide​​.

SoBig’s modus operandi involved masquerading as a benign email, enticing users to open an infected attachment. Once activated, the worm replicated and sent itself to email addresses found on the infected computer, thereby perpetuating a cycle of infection and replication.

The impact of SoBig was not just limited to individual users; it strained email servers and disrupted businesses globally. The worm’s rapid spread and the extensive damage it caused underscored the need for more advanced security protocols and heightened awareness about email-based threats. The sheer scale of the disruption caused by SoBig marked it as one of the most economically damaging malware attacks of its time.

4. MyDoom Worm (2004)

A year later, in 2004, the MyDoom worm emerged, surpassing its predecessors in terms of damage and reach. NordVPN reports that estimates place the damages caused by MyDoom at a staggering $38 billion, earning it the notorious title of one of the worst viruses ever​​. Security researchers believe that MyDoom infected around 50 million computers worldwide, a number that highlights its extensive reach.

The MyDoom worm spread primarily via email, but what set it apart was its ability to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. This worm’s design not only allowed it to spread rapidly but also to hijack infected computers, using them to overload target websites with traffic.

MyDoom’s impact was not just financial; it also raised significant concerns about the potential for malware to be used as a tool for larger scale cyber attacks, signaling a shift in the landscape of cybersecurity threats.


In conclusion, the history of spam and its associated malware, from the Melissa Virus to the MyDoom Worm, reveals a constantly evolving threat in the digital world. These examples not only demonstrate the sophistication and potential damage of such attacks but also underline the importance of vigilance in our increasingly connected lives.

Considering the immense financial and operational impact of these cyber threats, it’s crucial for users, especially those on Windows 11, to invest in robust antivirus software. Trusted brands like Norton, Avast, TotalAV, Bitdefender, McAfee, Panda, and Avira offer comprehensive protection against a range of cyber threats.

Utilizing such antivirus solutions is a proactive step towards safeguarding personal and professional data from the ever-present risk of malware and other online threats. In an age where digital security is paramount, investing in reliable antivirus software is not just a precaution; it’s a necessity.


  4. Nordvpn


Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.