Malware - know your nemesis
Malware, a portmanteau of "malicious" and "software", is an umbrella term for software applications and programs intended to cause disruption to computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It can appear in the form of code, scripts or active content (drive-by downloads), or as part of other seemingly-legitimate software. Some malware is disguised as genuine software, and may come from an official website in the form of a useful or attractive program which has the harmful malware embedded in it along with additional tracking software that gathers marketing statistics.
Once something you were more likely to catch from a dubious adult site, nowadays such contamination methods are far more likely to come from mainstream sites. It’s a common misconception that non-Windows machines such as Apple and Android devices are immune. We hate to say it, but you’re not 100% immune no matter which device you’re on. Here’s our brief guide to the most common types:
Like its biological counterpart, a computer virus infects the host (your computer/device in this case) and takes control over some or all of its functions. Not all computer infections are viruses. The virus destroys data or looks for things like passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive data, and can be combined with elements of spyware and/or trojans to accomplish this. The illegally-gained information is often sent to another computer via the internet. A virus can also use a computer to relay spam email, adult material, or coordinate attacks against websites and companies around the world as part of a remote-controlled "botnet".
A type of online scam. These often make the national news. “Phishing” scams usually masquerade as a legitimate website or as link to a legitimate site, but what really happens when a user clicks that link or visits that website and enters personal details is there's someone trying to “fish” for information. By making a user think they’re visiting their bank's website, or a shopping site or even government website, the scammers get users to divulge personal, financial or security information, which is then exploited by the criminals.
One of the earliest forms of malware, and once the umbrella term before malware become widely used. Like its name suggests, spyware "spies" on devices, sending that information back to a receiver that either targets you with advertising or - if it was in the form of a keylogger - sends a user’s passwords and account details to the fraudsters. This can lead to a user’s accounts and finances being accessed without the user’s knowledge. The category has broadened in recent years to include programs users download to their computer s which monitor all or selected activities carried out in it. In some extreme instances such spyware becomes nearly impossible to remove.
The Trojan, named after the legendary device of Greek myth, is malware that masquerades as a legitimate program. The program may have a legitimate function, but it carries malicious motives. Trojans carry out multiple unpleasant tasks, including deletion of data, compromising the computer’s security by downloading additional malware such as spyware, viruses, keyloggers, deactivating poor-quality security software, relaying spam or porn, and taking control of the computer as part of a botnet.
These are a specific type of virus. Worms replicates themselves over a network. Arriving on a PC through an infected email attachment, "hatched" by opening the attachment, they most commonly trawl an email program’s address book. From there, a copy of the worm is sent to many or all entries in that address book. They trick recipients by making it look as though the message is from one of their contacts. Worms are also used to deliver viruses, trojans, spyware or other payloads.
One of the most common types of malware, these are often installed as part of the installation of an otherwise legit program. If you get a choice during installation such as "default" or "express" setup, rogue toolbars can find their way in. The first most users know about rogue toolbars is when they next go online and find unexpected "features" such as recommendations and a changed homepage. Always choose "custom setup" or "custom install" if available.
Rogue security software:
Fraudulent software that deceives users into paying money to remove malware which may not have existed in the first place. Using scare tactics and intimidation to install or purchase this fake software, they pretend to be genuine antivirus software. Rogue software has seen a resurgence in the form of fake "tune-up" utilities. Rogue tuneup utilities simply replace fake malware detections with fake speed-up and tuning actions.
Rootkits hide the existence of certain processes or programs from normal methods of detection. They can enable remote access to a device for malicious intent as part of a botnet, similar to Trojans.
A comparatively modern threat. Ransomware is malware that installs covertly and encrypts data on that device, demanding a ransom to unencrypt it. If you don't pay, there may be threats to make your data public. Simple ransomware may lock the system in a way which is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse. One of the most troublesome malware types to remove.
Security suite: Avira security products
Wingmen: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, SUPERantispyware,
Browsers: Secure browsers such as Firefox and Chrome rather than Internet Explorer, which is still easily corrupted. Ask us for more information on improving your defences.