Biological viruses have plagued humanity since the beginning of human existence. Viruses often use an unknowing host as a means of self replication. Now in the twenty-first century there is a new form of this ancient menace, which preys upon the non-organic, they are computer viruses. Just like biological viruses, computer viruses infect an unknowing host to achieve their own objectives. Anyone who has had a computer virus is aware of the pain that one of these nasty bugs can cause. Those who have had an infected computer, have likely revisited a time they themselves have been sick. Just like an illness, a computer virus will cause a computer to be “bed sick” until the virus is removed. This can cause huge headaches for the user, especially if the contents on one’s computer are valuable or time sensitive.
Part of our job at iSupportU is removing viruses from client computers and making sure to salvage the clients important data. By understanding how computer viruses work, how they manifest and spread, people can then adjust their computer and internet-browsing habits to avoid infections. We would even venture to say that being a wise computer user is safer than having anti-virus protection. That isn’t to say that anti-virus software is not beneficial to have, but smart browsing habits are your first line of defense. Computer viruses are a lot like human viruses, you have your different types like Chicken Pox, Flu, or Ebola virus. There are many different categories of computer viruses and the term ‘virus’ has been used as a generalization of a computer infections. This broad category can be boiled down into three main categories that are seen the most and they are Trojans, Philshing attacks, and Adware/Spyware.
The first type of infectious software has been coined a ‘Trojan’ from Homer’s poem, The Iliad. In the poem, the Greek army, unable to breach the walls of Troy, left a gift to the Trojans as a sign of defeat in the form of a giant wooden horse. However, unbeknownst to the Trojans, Greek soldiers lay in wait inside the giant wooden horse and, when brought inside the walls of Troy, the Greek soldiers sprang out and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army to invade. This is exactly what a Trojan computer virus does: it sneaks into a computer and then it gives unauthorized access to an evil doer. Once the Trojan is in, the evil doer can do a whole mess of things, and none of them pleasant. A Trojan can record all the key strokes and mouse inputs of the computer, view exactly what the user is viewing and, worst of all, allow other malicious software to operate on the computer. Just as the name infers, a Trojan virus is one of the more “epic” virus-types out there .
The second category of viruses is know as Philshing attacks, these programs or emails are design to “bait” a user in hopes that they will take the bait and give the attacker the information they are looking for. These nasty little bugs find away to sneak onto the host computer much like a trojan by exploiting security flaws, loopholes, or by tricking the user into installing a philshing program. This program will then masquerad as an antivirus program. This usually occurs as a pop up ad stating that the client’s computer is infected with umpteen million viruses and the client must remove it immediately, for a fee, of course, otherwise there will be impending doom. However, this program is the infection itself and its ultimate goal is to trick the user into entering their credit information. Once the credit information has been captured, it is then transmited to “the evil people”, allowing them to make bogus charges to the account. Some timse this attack can come in the form of an email, asking the user to log into their account and for some dire reason. The user will click on the email and it will take them to a page that looks excatly like the real page. The unsuspecting user will enter their login information and before they can realize something is admist, they will have givin away their login information to a website, like Facebook. Once this 3rd party has your login information, they will then proceed to log in to your Facebook. Once on your account, they will either deface the user’s Facebook page with a slew of advertisements or, worse, pretend to be the user and try various ways to extort money from family and friends, generally by fabricating woe-is-me stories. These are the most malicious attacks, because not only do they take advantage of you, but they also take advantage of the trust of your family and friends.
The Third kind of infectious file is known as Adware/Spyware, which is considered by computer technicians and users alike as the most annoying of the bunch. Adware/Spyware uses many different tactics to install itself on a client’s machine. One way is to sneak onto the host computer when the user is browsing the internet, by exploiting security flaws in the internet browser, or loop holes in the operating system. Adware/Spyware may also bundle itself with known good program and when the users goes to install this program, the Adware/Spyware has been slipped into the installer, and thus the user installs both the desired program and the undesired Adware/Spyware. Once the Adware/Spyware is installed on the host machine it can have variety of objectives. It could generate unwanted pop ups ads or redirect the user’s internet browser to an ad website. Usually these pop ups and redirects are at such an aggressive rate that is impossible for the user to do anything else. Some forms of this infection gather information, cataloging what web sites a user visits for the purpose of marketing. This information is then transmited from the client’s machine out to a third party, generally without the user’s knowledge or permission. Once this form of Adware/Spyware is on the system, its affects will generally go unnoticed except for a drop in the computer’s speed, as the program is running in the background.
Our hope with this article is that by informing users of how viruses operate, they will learn to avoid clicking on untrustworthy links, or entering personal information into fake web pages. Also, remember to only download programs from trustworthy manufacturers and websites. Preventing the awful headache of trying to get better again.
Contact iSupportU with any questions about the security of your computers and networks.