Virus & Malware

Continuing in our IT is Education series, we are going into detail on viruses, malware, and giving a little advice on what you can do to protect yourself from these, and other malicious programs.  Be sure to check out our introduction to this computer learning series, as each article will build on the last!  Without further ado, here we go!

Some forms of computer viruses include the following:

  • Trojan Horses
    These are simply programs that pose as something else (much like the wooden horse of history) and, when run, can do any number of nasty things to your computer such as erase your hard drive, encrypt your files, and even install more malware to your computer!
  • E-mail viruses
    These are especially virulent pieces of programmatic catastrophe. These are the famous attachment viruses in e-mail such as the ILOVEYOU virus of 2000 and MyDoom of 2004
  • Worms
    Worms are absolutely the worst form of viruses in a computer network like is seen in most businesses today. These small pieces of code are not only programmed to infect a computer, but are also coded to replicate themselves across the network – infecting everything it can get its hands on. In today’s world of high speed internet and “always on” connections such as DSL, T-1, and Cable internet, this flavor of computer infection has a very ripe environment to copy itself.

What are these pop-ups?

Generally speaking, those annoying pop-ups you get when browsing and that alert you might get when turning on your computer that says the world is coming to an end if you don’t purchase this antivirus to clean out your computer are forms of malware called spyware and adware.

Spyware is a type of malware that will most often install itself on your computer as you use it for normal day-to-day activities such as browsing the internet, updating your social networking pages, or checking your e-mail. Its presence is typically hidden from you and can be very difficult to detect. The reason it is so secretive in its installation and presence is that it is often configured to  continually collect information about your activities on the computer and send it back to the creator of the malware. This can be used by businesses to generate models for their advertising or by less savory individuals to steal your account information while you bank online or shop online. In both cases, the practice is illegal in the United States and most of the developed world.

Adware is much like spyware in its installation and presence on your computer, but it differs greatly in its’ function. These malicious bits of code are what is behind all those pop-ups when you browse – or don’t even open – the internet. The reason they exist is because the creators of the programs get paid each time someone goes to their advertising server. Each time you get a popup, that is a connection to their server, so they in turn get paid for that connection. Multiply that by the myriad of infected computers and the creator is making very good money each month. A good example of this is the story of when a Botnet creator was captured (this also has a couple good tips for keeping clean).