Virus. At one point, this word meant that you had some kind of sickness and was going to be laid up in bed or the hospital for a few days. Now when someone hears this word, they think of an infection of the technological kind. Throughout the years, these infections morphed into a variety of strains and purposes which all can now be attributed to the word, “Malware.” Short for “malicious software,” these infections can cause everything from annoying pop-ups to severe damage of files within the computer system.
1. Trojan Horse – Just like the name describes, these malware types may look innocent enough. Once installed, they can accomplish a variety of tasks determined by the designer. One of the most common of these is the “Anti-Virus” application that informs you that you’re infected and need to pay in order to clean the infection from your computer. This is probably the most seen malware types in the IT profession as many will unwittingly install and use such programs. Although they are easier to remove than some of the other variants of malware, they are no less annoying and could possibly steal your financial information with each payment.
2. Rootkits – A rootkit is an extremely difficult virus to remove. The whole purpose of these expert designed bits of software is to avoid detection from software and users. Some of the more damaging of these can be installed on your computer right now without you ever noticing it. Some have tells that give themselves away, however. Many rootkits will deny services such as BITS or Windows Update and even block anti-virus websites or installations of those programs. Regardless of how often you scan with your anti-virus program, it may not see this form of malware. Some will lock your system in order to prevent you from removing the rootkit even in safe mode.
3. Phishing – If you’ve ever received an email from that poor Nigerian prince who needs your help in moving millions of dollars, those are phishing emails. Their purpose is to extract your personal and financial information from you in order to steal your identity. As an added bonus, many of these emails will include a zipped file that unloads a malware payload once you open it. As zipped files are encrypted, nearly all anti-virus applications cannot scan them. Once these files are opened and installed on your computer, they can do everything from recording your passwords to using your own mailing lists to spread itself en mass.
4. Mobile Infections – Just like any computer system, smartphones can also be subjected to malware of kinds. And yes, this does include MAC and iOS devices – no one is completely secure. Most of the time, these malware programs attempt to steal information within your phone and spread itself via SMS text messages to everyone in your phone book. Although there are measures to reduce the infection, you should never accept messages or attachments from someone you don’t know or if it looks suspicious in any way.
Unfortunately, there is no 100% prevention of contracting malware on a computer unless you are completely disconnected from a network and never use removable media. Even the most powerful of anti-malware scanning applications are not 100% fool-proof. All we can do is protect ourselves the best we can and have important information backed up on external devices to prevent infection.
About the Author:
Ken Myers is an expert advisor on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to www.gonannies.com. You can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be very careful…it’s dangerous out there.
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