Viruses, worms, trojans – Nobody like pests
So what are they and how can you protect yourself from them?
These nasties all have the same surname – Malware. Viruses, worms, trojans are all types malicious software or programs that work alone or together to cause mischief. People create these for many reasons – Fun, mischief, to cause disruption & sometimes to commit crimes.
Safe browsing is really little more than common sense, & protecting yourself on the internet should come as naturally as closing your downstairs windows – forgive the pun.
Viruses & their kin can be a real threat, & protection from them has become big business. The media is full of articles of horror stories where someone has lost their money, friends & their identity due to the internet. Scary stuff, huh? Trying to find out how to keep these out of your computing life can be confusing, there are many products costing lots of money that promise to keep you safe on-line. Most of them do work, but like a burglar alarm, they have to be switched on. A lot of them are overpriced, & have many features that you can get free of charge anyway. Still, if you want to pay for peace of mind or you prefer being able to ‘phone & speak to someone if you are unsure of a setting or you prefer having support, then buy one of the big brands. They have been around a long time & have earned their reputation.
That said, for the average computer who is not downloading video & music from dodgy websites, or spending time in the seedier realms of the worldwide web with their credit card in their hand, protection is easy as well as free.
Although there is a vast amount of information on the internet about these bugs, as well as a huge number of programs offering to keep you safe on-line, they can be a bit bewildering.
What are the on-line threats?
Viruses are the most well-known, & are, in many ways, the easiest to avoid. The threat posed by a virus is that they might delete or corrupt data on your computer. In an extreme case, a virus can potentially wipe your hard drive completely. The more common ways a virus gets onto your computer is through downloading from unethical websites, or though email attachments. Videos, & funny pictures often contain viruses. If you get one, you can easily unwittingly affect your contacts as they can spread infection using your email. Your main concern will be removing it & stopping it from spreading.
Avoiding viruses is thankfully quite simple. –
- Check your system is updated with the latest software
- Install any free security software that comes with your operating system, &
- Use an anti-virus program
- Keep your Firewall switched on
If you use Windows, there is an informative article here for all operating systems Microsoft anti virus info .
XP is not supported, if you still use an XP machine, either install a 3rd part anti-virus program AND stop using that machine for activities that require security, or consider changing the operating system altogether.
It’s quick, free & easy to do if you choose an opensource operating system. As an example, I changed mine to Ubuntu. Other operating systems have their own update & information sites, just check you are using the official site if you download anything.
Worms are very similar to viruses, they attach themselves to your email & might send emails to people from your email address so that your contacts will think they come from you. I will not go too much into this, as they are controlled pretty much in the same way we deal with viruses – Just be aware that worms like to travel by email.
- If you get an email that looks strange, don’t open any attachments. You can right-click & scan it with your anti-virus program, or just ask the sender whether they did send it. The time & date will be on the email itself to help you to identify it.
- Keep your anti-virus up to date. There are new viruses & worms coming out all the time, so your anti-virus program will need to check for regular updates. Most are pre-set to update at a certain time, so once installed & set up these vital gatekeepers look after themselves.
Trojans are like sterile viruses, they do not reproduce or duplicate themselves. They can do most things that viruses or worms can do, but they are sly & can be more sinister. Backdoor trojans are designed to take control of a computer without you knowing. They can be used for criminal activity. Trojan banker infections are designed to steal information to gain access to money, things like your banking logins. Trojan downloaders install malicious or unwanted software, like adware. They cause annoying pop ups & can be destructive. Trojan IMS steal your logins for instant messaging programs, & can send messages to others that look like they come from you.
Although more common in apps on tablets & ‘phones, they can affect computers too. Trojan SMS’s fake text messages using similar methodology & with the same aim. Trojans are the infections that can include keyloggers, which allow unwanted 3rd parties see & log what you type.
Now you know how they work, it is obvious how dangerous they can be. However, knowledge is power, & now you know how to avoid these pests.
Top Tips for managing Malware
Your computer probably came with a Firewall. Switch it on and keep it up to date
Get an anti-virus program before you go on-line. If your machine is new, watch for any 30 day trial expiry dates. There are some perfectly adequate ones avail free of charge.
If you would prefer to pay for an anti-virus program, consider checking with your bank first. Many provide free security programs to their customers, so check their websites, & ‘phone them if you need advice.
Malware can come from anywhere on the internet & can be frightening.
Sticking to the basics will go a long way to limiting your risk of exposure.
Illegal or sites that deal with controversial subject matter are more likely to contain Malware than other sites.
Protecting yourself is free & easy