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The Computer Buzz January 28th, 2010

Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Fact


It’s a Jungle out There

“Malware” is a euphemism for “any bad software that can interfere with your computer’s function or your constitutional right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happines.” It’s a lot easier to say malware than all of that.

Malware includes viruses, trojan horses, worms, spyware, phishing, pharming, and a host of less well known terms. The methods of delivering and infecting your PC are many and diverse. Infections can arrive by e-mail, social engineering attacks, drive by, network, storage devices, pop-ups and spam. Malware is a “for profit” business. It seeks to make money in several ways. The most innocent of these is the luring you to web sites were they are being paid to generate “hits” or sales.

Another way malware makes money for its creators is called “data mining.” They track your Internet travels, determine your interests and sell that information to commercial organizations who will target you for their products. On a darker note, by monitoring your keystrokes they may crack your passwords, account numbers, age, driver’s license, SSN and other data useful in stealing your identity and property.

The most direct way that malware can pick your pocket is through a process called “social engineering.” This term historically refered to government efforts to change or “engineer” society through public policy like price controls, public housing, welfare and education. In recent years the term has been co-opted much like the word “gay” to mean something entirely different. “Social engineering” in computer terms refers to Internet attacks like phishing and pharming where the purpose is to trick you into some action. The action might be to give personal or financial information, purchase a phony product or service or simply click an icon for more information.

Many PC problems that we see here at The Computer Factory originate from a response to a “social engineering” invitation. False virus warnings or software upgrade notices lead the list. When the official looking notice appears saying “your comuter may be infected” it’s natural to assume that your own virus program is providing the alert. When you click on the program, it says that the infection can be cured if you pony up thirty or forty bucks. By this time most folks realize that they are being scammed but its too late, the PC is infected.

The phony virus alert was a Trojan horse concealing the “denial of service” malware program which will now disable your virus and malware protection. It does this to protect itself from being discovered while it does its work. Unfortunately, your PC is now completely unprotected and begins to gorge itself on viruses and other malware as you innocently cruise the Internet. The longer you cruise the internet without proper protection, the higher the risk of corrupting applications and/or the operating system. The easiest way to determine whether or not you’re infected is to check your virus scan’s history each day to make sure that it is running and scanning properly. Next week we’ll discuss your defense options.





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