Malware/Consumer Antivirus Software
In today’s ever-increasing world of technology, protection from malware is becoming an integral part of computer safety. Any computer that is communicating over a network with another device has the potential to be at risk of malware. Stored files on computers can also be exposed to those who are smart enough to find a way to get them, especially if the victim has taken zero safety precaution to prevent it.
Like all things, somewhere up the timeline exists the origin. We can trace malware back to the 1987 finding of Ralf Burger, who decided to investigate a virus he stumbled upon and write about it. His deep dive into his findings were quite extensive which proved to be a blessing and a curse because Burger’s book started to get used as a tutorial of sorts on how to create new viruses. Since the computer specialist got his work published, there has been thousands upon thousands of malwares based on his findings. Later on Burger ironically created his own virus which he named after himself.
Then came the beginning days of the internet in the 1990’s which set off a humungous chain of events in IT security breaching. New technology called botnets and bots came into the fold. For the first time in history private information was being plastered all over the world wide web. The monitoring of network activity in real time was an issue and a pain in the neck for individuals who were trying to get a grip on what the internet really was and if it was worth the hassle using. During mid to late 1990’s efforts were made to thwart cyber criminals, but because the internet was still in it’s infancy, there was no major agency that saw success in reducing criminal activity. The first major step came in the late 1990’s with the creation of the National Infrastructure Protection Center.
As you can imagine, there are now countless amounts of viruses and bugs that can be used to seep into computer networks and internet apps. First, it is important understand what the definition of a virus is. A virus is a program that is able to replicate and then spread itself. For this to be possible the virus must attach itself to files that are connected to legitimate programs. After doing so an unsuspecting user may unknowingly share this with a friend through the use of a thumb drive or “USB.” It is very important that you know exactly what is going in and out of your computer or network because prevention is better than playing defense.
So, you may be wondering what kinds of malware, short for “malicious software” exists. Well, to sit here and explain one by one all of the current viruses going around on the internet these days could take from now until the end of time. Instead, a quick hit on the most common ones should suffice.
Let’s quickly touch on Rootkits. At first, you make think this software is helping protect you from harm. In actuality, Rootkits work as a backdoor of sort to help malware get into your system. Rootkit installation can be either automatic or installed manually once administrator privileges have been obtained. The first documented malicious rootkit for Windows appeared in 1999 and was called NTRootKit. It preceded the HackerDefender rootkit that came in 2003. The first rootkit targeting Mac users appeared in 2009.
Next, up is Ransomware. This particular type is the most advanced and disastrous type of malware. Ransomware infiltrates the system from the inside and locks it, therefore rendering the computer useless. Threats to release, delete or publish are made to the user, until a “ransom” is paid, hence it’s name. Once a payment is made, there may still not be a 100% chance that the locked files will be decrypted. Ransomware attacks use “Trojan” and enters the system through file that was downloaded. Payment is usually always the goal and a key element for the attacker to run a successful attack is a payment system that is hard to track, should law enforcement or other agencies be contacted.
Now, the all-important Keylogging. This may actually be one of the lesser known names when it comes to malware that is prevalent. This type of malware affects hardware (i.e. keyboard). Although keyloggers do not possess the ability to record information, they can gather stored information like credit card information, usernames, and passwords. Hardware keyloggers have an advantage over software keyloggers in that they can start the login process they second that a computer is turned on. All hardware keyloggers have a microcontroller, and a non-volatile memory device. A microcontroller interprets the data between a keyboard and computer and passes it on to the memory device. The memory device (flash drive) stores recorded data and retains the information even when there is no power.
With the ability to spy on users as its name describes, spyware is another type of malware that gathers information about an individual or organization without their consent or knowledge. After information is gathered it sends this information to another entity. Common spyware such as CoolWebSearch and FinFisher are examples of the diverse behavior spyware can display. The first recorded use of spyware occurred October1995.
Here’s one that even the most technology inept user has heard. Going by the name spam is commonly spread version of advertising used by internet bad guys to prey on those who do not know any better. To find an example of spam, look no further than the folder labeled “junk” the next time you check your email. This from of virus is sent on a mass scale and their contents include pyramid schemes, flashy pictures that catch you eye, as well as clickbait. Spam coerces the user to click on it and then enter personal information like their home address, social security number, credit card information and so on and so forth.
So now you’ve all of that and your head is spinning, you might feel a sense of hopelessness and you may even be contemplating not using the internet any longer (at least you’ll be able to keep your own identity). Luckily, even though the bad guys have a couple tricks up their sleeve, there exists protection against malware in the form of antiviruses. Antivirus analyze computer programs for strange activity and then scan again using a dictionary of viruses that are known. If suspicious activity is scanned the antivirus software prompts the user with options on how to deal with it. These scans are done on a regular, if not daily, basis and can be an integral part in safely browsing the internet.
Firewall is a term coined by actual firefighters, it is a network security device that monitors activities over a network. Like firefighters, firewalls serve as a first line of defense for software, hardware, or both. Firewalls are designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network. Thus, all messages entering or leaving the network will pass through said firewall, which is then examined, and messages that do not meet the specified security requirement are immediately blocked.
Spam filters are just the right fix for pesky viruses contained in mass emails and messages. They work by scanning languages and characters that are not in the user’s native language. Doing this eliminates the possibility of an internet hacker overseas getting hold of personal information. However, one downfall of this is legitimate messages and emails occasionally fail to get through and are sent to the spam folder as a result. Cyber criminals are also keen enough to set up spam that allows them to enter through backdoor loopholes. Knowing that they will be hard to track down, they are able thoroughly breach tons of data at their own pace. Some of this hacking is taking place by an individual who is overseas masking their identity as well, which makes it even harder to track down the perpetrator.
In conclusion, the amount of risk we take every day when we unlock our laptops, computers and smartphones is unfathomable. Even with multiple tools that can prevent breaches, cyber predators are on the prowl 24/7 gaining more knowledge on how to bypass antivirus software. Because of the sheer number of full-time hackers in the world working around the clock, some may feel it is inevitable that they will be a victim. Thinking like this will surely be the first step in their downfall. In my opinion, if you plan to purchase a new laptop or desktop computer, I’d recommend going to Geek Squad so they can help protect your device as soon as you buy it. Researching top antivirus software does not hurt either. The top three antivirus software, respectively, are (TotalAV, PC Protect and Scanguard) as rated by top 10 antivirus are all relatively inexpensive at under $25. Once you find a product you trust downloading it and setting up initial scans should priority number one. We might go to sleep at night but it’s not a promise that the hacker attempting to steal your identity is.
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“Antivirus Software.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antivirus_software.
“The Virus Encyclopedia.” Burger – The Virus Encyclopedia, virus.wikidot.com/burger.
“12+ Types of Malware Explanied: Scariest and Dangerous!” MalwareFox, 9 Jan. 2018, www.malwarefox.com/malware-types/.
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