Our world is now tied to the internet, e-mail and instant messaging in general. Most companies will have e-mail and internet on all machines which is used for both business and personal access. Dealing with customers from all walks of life from the home user who's internet knowledge is minimal up to the corporate users who has structured and limited access I find that the most common complaint in today's PC world is down to 'virus' problems.
The term virus is a catch all for many different types of attacks from the outside world which have the ability to infiltrate our computers in various ways. According to Symantec (Norton) there are currently 2,823,534 different threats & risks active at the moment. Below I have outlined the main ways and types of attack
Email - Malware, Spam, Phishing, Virus
Web Activity - Phishing, Spyware, Virus
Instant Messaging - Malware, Spam, Spyware
File Sharing - Malware, Spyware
Useful 'free' Applications - All forms of attack
True viruses are programs that are written to specifically be destructive to a PC or to cause annoyance and possibly be a gateway for other forms of viruses with specific purposes.
Vulnerabilities are flaws in software that open security weaknesses in PC's or networks, or improper computer or security configurations. These weaknesses can then be exploited by other viruses.
Spyware is a term for any program that monitors PC activity without the users' knowledge or consent. They gather any information available from local files, internet behaviour, e-mails and even instant messaging conversations. This information is then typically used to show adverts targeted at your usage. Spyware can be received through e-mails, instant messaging, file-sharing connections and even be included in legitimate software (usually freeware).
Spam is the e-mail equivalent of junk mail. It generally involves sending adverts to mailing lists and fictitious addresses hoping for someone to act upon the content. Spam can also be used to deliver trojan horses, viruses, worms, spyware, and phishing attacks.
Malware includes worms, viruses and trojan horses. They can be destructive by using email and instant messaging to spread worms, links to bogus websites to deliver trojan horses and virus-infected files downloaded from 'free software' networks (also known as peer to peer networks).
A Trojan horse program presents itself as a useful computer program, while it actually causes havoc and damage to your computer.
Bot - Crimeware
"Bot", short for robot are the most sophisticated types of crimeware at the moment. Being similar to worms and trojans, they install themselves on a machine and wait dormant for instructions from a master machine. There could be 100,000's of Bot's waiting for just one machine to cause destruction to machines or websites.
We hear of many viruses and some that don't really exist at all. Hoax virus warning messages are quite frequent and can jam mail servers as people send warnings around to each other. They can also make us relax about proper viruses and even be entry points for bogus antivirus sites.
Phishing - Online Fraud
Phishing (pronounced "fishing") is a name given to the practises of online con artist. Using all forms described above they are looking to trick you into divulging sensitive information, such as bank and credit card accounts.
Pharming - Online Fraud
Pharming (pronounced "farming") is very similar to phishing. Pharmers use website that look like the proper site to trick users into entering information.
Everyday Tips to Keep Safe on the Internet
There is no easy way to be virus free or not to come into contact with viruses but by being vigilant we can minimize the effect and hopefully keep our PC's running smoothly.
• Check websites are valid, clicking on links can send you to incorrect sites
• Look for https at the beginning of website addresses for banks and payments etc. The 's' at the end stands for secure and should be present on legitimate payment processes
• Check e-mail sources before opening attachments
• Don't click 'Remove from mailing list' on e-mails. Doing this just proves you exist.
• Use junk mail and e-mail rules to filter out the rubbish - then ignore it.
• Do not use free download software or peer-to-peer networks without knowing the risks.
• Keep virus software up to date and run weekly scans
• Keep your PC up to date with Windows Update
• Don't load too many virus programs, this can cause PC's to slow and for them not to work.
• On business networks get a good router with a firewall. This keeps you invisible from the outside world.
How do we know when we have a Virus
There is no easy way to be virus free or not to come into contact with viruses but by being vigilant we can minimize the effect and hopefully keep our PC's running smoothly. Signs of a possible attack would be
• PC is slow to start up - especially after logging on.
• Internet is consistently slow to load pages.
• Usual home page does not come up.
• Certain pages shut down or will not open.
• Pop up windows appear.
• Unknown 'Software' reports viruses.
• E-mails are slow to send or receive.
• Windows options like 'Windows Update' do not run or close down unexpectedly.
• Antivirus software fails to load or reports errors.
• New icons appear on the desktop.
• Antivirus software often reports viruses found
What to do if we have a Virus
'Don't Panic!' as a famous book once said. Follow these tips to minimize the effects of an attack.
• Backup your important files NOW! - some attacks can damage your PC setup so it will not work properly.
• Change your passwords - Change important passwords, on a clean machine if possible.
• Update your virus software and run a Virus scan - and reboot and re run till no errors are reported.
• Use Windows Update to get the latest security patches for your PC.
• Call an IT expert, they should be able to check your PC properly and remove any lurking nightmares.