VIRUS AND SPYWARE
Viruses are computer programs or scripts that attempt to spread from one file to another on a single computer and/or from one computer to another, using a variety of methods, without the knowledge and consent of the computer user. A worm is a specific type of virus that propagates itself across many computers, usually by creating copies of itself in each computer’s memory.
Many users define viruses simply as trick programs designed to delete or move hard drive data, which, strictly speaking, is not correct. From a technical viewpoint, what makes a virus a virus is that it spreads itself. The damage it does is often incidental when making a diagnosis.
Obviously, any incidental damage is important, even when authors do not intend to create problems with their viruses; they can still cause harm unintentionally because the author did not anticipate the full effect or unintentional side effects. The most common method used for spreading a virus is through e-mail attachment. Sending a virus, even if designed to be harmless, can cause unforeseen damage.
A Trojan Horse meets the definition of virus that most people use, in the sense that it attempts to infiltrate a computer without the user’s knowledge or consent. A Trojan Horse, similar to its Greek mythological counterpart, often presents itself as one form while it is actually another. A recent example of malware acting as a Trojan horse is the recent e-mail version of the "Swen" virus, which falsely claimed to be a Microsoft update application.
Trojans typically do one of two things: they either destroy or modify data the moment they launch, such as erase a hard drive, or they attempt to ferret out and steal passwords, credit card numbers, and other such confidential information.
Trojan Horses can be a bigger problem than other types of viruses as they are design to be destructive or disruptive, as opposed to viruses and worms where the coder may not intend to do any harm at all. Essentially this distinction does not matter in the real world. You can lump viruses, Trojans, and worms together as "things I don't want on my computer or my network".
Spyware and other malicious programs fall under the term malware. They’re not quite viruses, but they are a nuisance at the least and can severely affect your system performance. Often, they invade your privacy by reporting your online activities to a website owner who then directs advertising to your PC in the form of pop-ups and email. Some actually record your keystrokes to capture your passwords and logins to secure websites where you conduct online purchases or pay your bills. Others will add so many programs that run in the background (you won’t know they’re running but they’re using up your system resources) and report on your computing activities that your computer will run more and more slowly—until you have to reboot continuously. So you must take malware as seriously as viruses.
How does malware get onto your computer? You often invite it in! When you download that free screensaver or other program or you engage in file sharing activities, you usually have to sign an End User License Agreement (EULA). Most people click on the “accept” button without reading the EULA. EULAs are typically extremely long, filled with legal language that people don’t want to read. But they often tell you that by accepting this free program, you agree to let them install other programs on your computer or share information about you with others. When you “accept” the free program, you’ve accepted the conditions of using it, which includes permitting them to install this “malware” on your computer. If you uninstall the malware, the free program may no longer work. So, please, be careful when installing free programs or deals that are “too good to be true.”
Here are some of the different forms of malware and what they do to your computer:
Sends reports of your online activities to a website owner who then directs advertising to your PC.
Records actual keystrokes, capturing details such as secure website logins and passwords, then sends them to a website owner who uses your online identity for purchases and other transactions.
Redirects your home page to somewhere else; sometimes to a site that contains viruses or Trojans that infect your computer; other times to a site that racks up long distance phone charges for dialup customers (see dialer below); and sometimes to pornographic web sites.
Redirects your phone call (dialup customers) to a long distance (& incredibly expensive) site that has been set up specifically for this purpose; the long distance charges get paid to the site owner; they’re usually overseas and thus not under the control of US laws.
Small files placed on your computer when you visit a website so the website will remember you the next time you visit. Unless you don’t mind re-entering all your data every time you pay a bill or make a purchase from your favorite online site, you need cookies. But you don’t need all the cookies that end up on your computer, so check carefully when running malware scans for which cookies to keep and which ones to delete.
Some malware programs are actually a combination of categories. You can see how important it is to keep malware off your computer. And while there may be only a half dozen or so categories of malware, there are thousands of malware programs out there, all waiting for a chance to invade your computer.
Why suffer with annoying pop-ups and slow PC performance? Contact us and we will take care of you with prompt, courteous, and professional service.