When we talk about malware and viruses in the digital world, we are not talking about contracting an illness from your computer; we are describing a type of malicious software, or malware as it’s known.
These programs are often called viruses because of the way that they self- replicate and install without the users consent. Quite often, the user will not be aware that the malware is present.
There are several reasons why people create viruses and malware. One of the main reasons is to gather sensitive information such as passwords, card details, and account numbers, which fraudsters then use to steal from people’s bank accounts. Malware used to gather account details or divert payments, are often referred to as Trojans.
Some malware, known as ‘ransomware’, encrypts all of the user’s files, including music and photos, and criminals demand a ‘ransom’ to release the files.
Other reasons may be to cause disruption and problems to other computer users, to gain access to or disrupt large companies or government organisations, or sometimes just to raise a hacker’s profile.
How does malware get on your computer?
Malware can get onto your computer in a variety of ways, for example through attachments to emails, through applications on your computer, through bogus or infected websites, or through an external hard drive. The user thinks they are opening an ordinary file or clicking on a normal website, but opening it actually installs malware on their computer.
What you can do to stop them?
As with most online threats, there are things you can do to prevent malware and viruses infecting your computer:
Protect your computer with up-to-date internet security software and run full security scans regularly and keep your virus definitions up to date. Barclays Online Banking customers can get free Kaspersky internet security software for their computers and mobile devices
Install the latest software updates – you’ll usually be reminded about available updates
Only download apps, files, or programs from trusted sources
Don’t click on links or open attachments in emails you weren’t expecting or are unsure about. Remember if in doubt, delete it!
If someone calls out of the blue, don’t follow their instructions to go to a website, type anything into your computer or install software – no legitimate organisation will make unsolicited calls to say your computer needs repairs.
Why does this happen?
There are several reasons why people create viruses and malware. The main ones are to steal sensitive information such as passwords, personal details etc. and to cause disruption and problems to other computer users - often just because they can! Watch this video to find out more.
Video Provided by Kapersky
Different types of malware
Video Provided by The Curious Engineer
A computer virus is a type of malware that, when executed, replicates by inserting copies of itself (possibly modified) into other computer programs, data files, or the boot sector of the hard drive. When this replication succeeds, the affected areas are then said to be "infected”. Viruses often perform some type of harmful activity on infected hosts, such as stealing hard disk space or CPU time, accessing private information, corrupting data, displaying political or humorous messages on the user's screen, spamming their contacts, or logging their keystrokes. However, not all viruses carry a destructive payload or attempt to hide themselves; the defining characteristic of viruses is that they are self-replicating computer programs that install themselves without the user's consent.
A Trojan Horse is any program that invites the user to run it, concealing harmful or malicious code. The code may take effect immediately and can lead to many undesirable effects, such as deleting the user's files or installing additional harmful software.
A rootkit is a stealthy type of software designed to hide the existence of certain processes or programs from normal methods of detection and enable continued privileged access to a computer.
Full control over a system means that existing software can be modified, including software that might have been used to find such attacks.
A backdoor is a method of bypassing normal authentication procedures. Once a system has been compromised, one or more backdoors may be installed in order to allow easier access in the future.
Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system. This type of malware forces its victims to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods in order to grant access to their systems, or to get their data back.
These aggressive assaults can involve
Being duped into clicking on an infected popup advertisement or you visit an infected website
Ads for pornographic websites appear on your screen each time you try to click on a Web page
Putting time pressure on the victim, stating that a piece of your data will be destroyed every 30 minutes if you don’t pay up
Some attack attempts to force you to purchase a program to de-encrypt your data.
The criminals often ask for a nominal payment, figuring you’ll be more likely to pay to avoid the hassle and heartache of dealing with the virus. They may ask for as little as £10 to be wired through Western Union, paid through a premium text message or sent through a form of online cash.
If you have been a victim of Ransomware
Disconnect from WiFi and Bluetooth or unplug from the network - If you suspect you have encountered ransomware, disconnect yourself from the network immediately. This will stop the ransomeware spreading to other devices on a local network. For example a large company with 1000’s of PC’s all using the network, instead of having all of them infected only one would be an problem.
Do not turn off your machine as this will destroy vital evidence.
Open a malicious attachment in an email
Click on a malicious link in an email, instant message, social networking site or other website
Visit a corrupt website - often these are of a pornographic nature
Open infected files from web-based digital file delivery companies (for example Hightail - formerly called YouSendIt, and Dropbox)
Open corrupt macros in application documents (word processing, spreadsheets etc)
Connect corrupt USB connected devices (eg memory sticks, external hard drives, MP3 players)