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This question has probably been asked several times here, but I'll ask it a bit differently.
I am trying to learn about malware and how it infects computers and how to disinfect a computer if one gets attacked. I've seen several people use virtual machines to test malware in (I've been using VirtualBox for a few years now) and I've contemplated on doing it too, but I fear that the malware might "leak out" of the VM and ruin my host computer and all of the computers on my network.
The questions I have are:
Can I test malware in VirtualBox with access to the Internet within the VM without harming my host computer or any of the other computers on my network?
If I use a real computer to test malware on (I have a junky Dell XP tower kicking around), will formatting afterwords be enough?
Can my Dell XP tower also have the Internet enabled without the malware effecting my other computers?
Even if I can't have both the Internet enabled and use malware within the VM at the same time, can that malware still "hop out" of the VM and attack my host computer?
Since I will also be 'pranking' some of those cliche Windows scammers (well, not really pranking, just testing ways that they can get in and do damage), would it be safe to use a VM, or can I even use that junky Dell of mine?
Will it also be necessary to mask my IP and MAC addresses so that they aren't logged and sent out to whoever could receive it while I'm doing the malware testing?
If I can safely execute malware within a VM, what steps are necessary for keeping my real stuff safe?
If this helps, my host computer will either be a Mac running OS X 10.8.5, or a tower running XP (not my Dell one).
And the guest will be any OS, but mainly Windows (yes, from newest to oldest)
I hope I explained this well enough for you guys.
Any and all help will be greatly appreciated.