In the beginning virus creators started writing viruses in the early 1980’s until the late 1990’s more for practical jokes or pranks to friends to see how far a virus could spread. As the writers were often young, some still in their teens, they didn’t understand or didn’t think about the vast consequences of their actions. From the 1990’s until the early 2000’s virus writers and hackers began to put their talents to more professional or sometimes criminal use. As the internet began to evolve it became everyone’s tool for information and businesses and banks were starting to use it for commerce and transactions. This in turn opened the opportunity for economic exploitation of both the individual as well as businesses. Today many experts believe there is more malicious software being released than legitimate software. Malware which is short for “malicious software” refers to a file or program designed to infiltrate and infect a user’s computer and inflict harm on it which can be done in multiple ways and through multiple different types of malware which can include viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware and many more.
What is a virus?
A virus is a type of malware that propagates itself by being copied or copying itself and becoming part of other programs. It spreads from computer to computer leaving infections as it travels. Viruses can be transmitted through e-mails, in download files, through diskettes/ CD’s or even through a USB or external hard drive. Viruses range in severity ranging anywhere from mildly annoying effects to damaging data or software and causing denial-of-service (DoS) conditions. Some viruses lie dormant until something/someone runs the program that is has copied itself to causing it to start doing what the creator programmed it to do while other viruses wreak havoc as soon as they are copied to your computer.
What is a computer worm?
A worm is similar to a virus by design but it differs in a way that the virus the worm doesn’t need any human action in order to spread. A worm usually spreads through the vulnerabilities across networks and taking advantage of file or information transportation features on your system which in turn allows it to travel unaided. The biggest danger of a worm is its capability to replicate itself on your system which gives the worm the capability of rather than sending out a single worm it has the possibility of sending out hundreds or thousands of copies of itself creating a huge devastating effect. Some of the more common modes of connected transport for computer worms include attachments, file sharing networks, and links to infected websites. Usually, due to the nature of the worm and its capability to travel across networks on its own, in most cases, the end result is that the worm consumes too much system memory causing web servers, network servers, and individual computers to completely stop responding.
What are Trojans?
Trojans are usually programs that disguise themselves as useful tools but end up performing harmful and sometime troublesome tasks. Trojans can come in a range of categories. Trojans can range anywhere from an irritating Trojan that tends to annoy the user by popping up windows or changing the desktop to the more mild Trojan which is able to be commanded by the hacker to execute damaging tasks such as deleting files, stealing data, or activating and spreading other malware, such as viruses. Trojans are usually created by computer professionals who are experts in what they do, they tend to create the Trojans in the form of crime-ware so as to trade them in the black market for mostly fraudulent purposes. What we need to remember is that Trojans can also be programmed to do other tasks and once a Trojan is on your computer it is only the first stem towards your computer destruction. Trojans can be programmed so that they can install/download threats which are even more malicious. Trojans can be forwarded via e-mail disguised as many different things such as video clips, images or even fake URLs. These emails are usually sent by anonymous senders and sometime even emails of friends or family that have been hacked.
What is a keylogger?
A keylogger is a type of surveillance program or hardware that has the capability to monitor the user’s activities, especially when typing on the keyboard. The creator of a key logger is then free to view the keystrokes that the victim has typed as it is stored into a log file that is usually encrypted. Keyloggers that harm the privacy of the user are known to record login passwords, credit card details as well as other sensitive information and send all this information back to the creator. It’s very easy for any keylogger to get into your system, it enters your computer similarly to spyware, which means that it may disguise/hide in the form of a browser or it may have been mistakenly downloaded directly from any spyware website. Since the key loggers are adept at hiding/disguising themselves from the users they are relatively difficult to remove. The main reason they are difficult to detect is that they don’t tend to give any hints as to the fact that they are there. Unlike adware, they don’t have pop-up ads and unlike spyware they don’t affect the computer speed or performance, so there are no clues to the silent but deadly key logger.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware stop you from being able to use your computer normally and holds it “ransom” until a certain action is done. There are different types of ransomware but the main aim of all of them is to prevent you from using your computer. They can target anyone whether it be a user on a personal home computer to a business computer in a large company. Ransomware can stop you from accessing windows, encrypt/lock files so you cant use/access them and can also stop certain apps from running. Ransomware will demand a certain amount of money or “ransom” to be paid in order to regain access and get the key to the encrypted files. But there is never a guarantee that after paying the ransom that you will regain access to your files or apps. It is up to the attacker if he wants to give you back access, but if you do end up paying the ransom then that will make you more susceptible to further attacks in the future as you have already voluntarily paid once. There are many different ways in which ransomware can get on to your computer and these include; visiting unsafe/suspicious/fake websites, opening emails and attachments from people you don’t know or emails you weren’t expecting or even by clicking on malicious links on facebook/twitter/instant messages or other social media posts or chats. After a ransomware attack it can be extremely difficult to fully restore your computer back to its original state especially if it was encrypted.
What is Adware?
In the beginning the creators of viruses created them for personal reasons there was no intention on financial gain but when the potential for financial gain was recognized, computer programmers started to think of new and unique ways to gain financially from their special set of skills. This led to the creation of adware. Adware started out as a form of legitimate software which would prompt the user if they agreed to allow adware to be installed whilst installing other software. Sometimes the agreement was buried in the terms and conditions that users tend not to read and would be a way for programmers of software to get paid for giving software away. Adware studies the types of websites that you visit so as to later provide you with interesting adverts of the website previously visited. One of the more classic forms of adware are pop-ups which can sometimes have a series of pop-ups come up at once to have one pop-up after the other come up after the former one was closed. Adware in not generally malicious but it can cause your computer to slow down significantly.
What is spyware?
Spyware can be used to describe a type of software that performs certain behaviors without appropriately obtaining any consent first. These behaviors include collecting personal information, changing the settings on your computer and also displaying advertisements on your screen. Spyware has the ability to change your web browser’s home page or search page, add additional components to your browser that you may not want or even need and they also make it difficult to change your settings back to the way you had it.
What is a rootkit?
A rootkit can be described as a covert program designed to provide continuous privileged access to any computer while actively hiding its existence, it enables administrator-level access to a computer or network. A rootkit creates something like a “backdoor” into your system which allows the hacker to alter log files, attack other machines on the network and also alter existing system tools to escape detection.