By Patrick Gildard
Is your computer feeling a little funny in the boot sector?
Are surprising things popping up in places you know they don’t belong?
Has Mr. or Ms. PC been clicking a little too much without protection?
Are you INFECTED?
Malicious software, digital STDs, are crawling all around, waiting to take a bite out of your good time. As in anything, protection and or caution should be of the utmost importance, especially when you’re driving around on the online super highway. Malware for short, malicious software includes many little bugs that if you knew were there you would be passing up on double clicking that pretty little piece of code that your friend introduced you to.
Now, with any good software, some malware may look good on the outside, all done up with its pretty GUI (Graphical USER Interface) and its promise of fixing you up right; just don’t be fooled, because what lurks in the shadows is not a good time.
Virus’s, Trojans, Spyware and Worms, OH MY!
Let’s break down some of our bugs a little and explain how they might find their way onto your computer. Viruses, everyone has heard that word whether it’s the flu or a computer issue. Computer viruses come in many forms and on top of that they can be transmitted in many ways. Viruses enter your system with the intent of damaging, or altering your files and data. The forms can come as the following: File viruses, Macro viruses, Master boot record viruses, Boot sector viruses, Multipartite viruses, Polymorphic viruses and Stealth viruses. As these viruses listed above all perform different or slightly different operations their intent is true. A file virus normally infects an .exe, .bat, or. com. The virus is attached to these files and when the file is executed it lets the malware start infecting your system.
Macro viruses infect applications such as word, excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and others and typically are contracted through email attachments. As they say most of them are relatively harmless but one macro virus caused Microsoft to shut down all incoming mail when it would spam the first 50 Outlook contacts from any infected computer with the service.
As you can tell, depending on what the intent of the attacker a virus can perform, hide, and run on your system without you knowing or ever knowing. A Trojan, which is not a virus but a destructive program that looks like a genuine application, as I mentioned above, with its pretty GUI can and has tricked many people into activating it. The attacker uses it to solicit funds, credit card numbers and other personal information. Typically a Trojan can take that form of a pop up that tells you your computer is infected and is in need for cleaning. Trojans can give attackers remote access, send out data, and disable security software on your PC, among other things.
Trojan (horse) malware gets its name from the Greek myth, which everyone is probably familiar with. Tricking Troy into bringing a horse full of Greeks into the city, as in letting the malware trick you into thinking it’s genuine.
We also should discuss when PC is mentioned that it does not only mean Windows. In the business world PC has been the name for windows based computer and Mac for Macintosh but in reality they are all PC’s. Macs can and do get malware but look at it this way: if you’re an attacker looking to wreak havoc you’re going to write code to hit the most targets. Trends in operating system usage lay heavily with windows; therefore, attackers are going to write code to follow those trends to hit the most terminals possible. There are well-documented cases of plenty of malware on Macs. The only real way to know for a fact you will not get any malware is to never give your PC online access; although, you can still contract a load of malware from an infected usb, hdd, and other media. Just remember to stay up to date, turn on your firewall, and encrypt your data and exercise caution.
Here are some top free Windows and Mac applications for use in defending your computer.
* Ad-aware free antivirus+ (windows)- sandbox emulation, real time anti-malware
* Malwarebytes (windows) – removal only (in free version) with chameleon technology that gives it the ability to install on already infected systems that try to block anti-malware software installs
* Avast! Free anti-virus (Mac OSX and Windows) – according to digitaltrends.com Avast! Free is the best for Mac (personally never used it) but it’s full of features, full system malware scans which also sift through email and other online areas that may contain threats.
Patrick Gildard is currently enrolled in Computer Technology – Senior Seminar and is Looking to have a career as a Zookeeper.