Virus 101

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Most infections take place on Windows machines, and even though many people think that Macs are immune to infections, they are not! Yes, Macs do a better job in the infection department and although you may not have to be as concerned about catching a bug as a Windows user, it’s always good to know what infections are and how they can put your data in jeopardy.
So what types of malware can your computer get? Well, just like diseases a person can catch, the list is a long one that can be broken up into categories. That is because each infection can have a unique strain or method of infection. Here are the 3 most common types of computer virus:
Backdoors – This type of malware creates a software hole in the computer which creates a sort of open door policy allowing an attacker to run anything they want on your computer without being stopped by your computer’s defenses.
Trojans – These types of infections act just as their name predicts. A seemingly harmless file when run unleashes nasty code that tears down your computer’s defenses from the ground up.
Rootkits – These are the worst infections out there. Not only does this malware infect your computer, but it fights back! If the infection gets stopped, a rootkit can restart itself, copy itself or even move itself. These are masters in the art of concealment, and often make removal next to impossible. Many times the only course of action is a complete format of the hard drive.
Generally, malware that infects your system combines any of the above 3 elements for specific purposes. For example, some malware installs a program called a keylogger, which records everything you type hoping to catch credit card numbers and personal information which could then be later sold and used against you.

Sometimes malware stays quiet on your computer until the attacker wants to activate it. Generally, the attacker will wait until he has infected a few hundred thousand computers, and then he essentially has enlisted your computer in an army of other infected computers without you even being aware!

Your sympoms in these cases will include a very slow running computer and various program errors or pop-up messages.

You may ask yourself, “Why would anyone want to do that?” Well if you are a bad guy triggering a an army of computers to visit a single website multiple times per second he can easily bring down entire websites just from the sheer number of connections. If you are a true “bad guy” this cause and effect is exactly what you desire.

Then there is the malware that appears to be an antivirus that will (for a small fee) gladly remove all of the nasty programs that it itself installed. This one is very popular and I have been asked to clean computers because of this hundreds of times. This is important – so pay attention. Never ever pay anything when prompted by one of these malware programs. That’s because once you pay, they will ask for more, and more and more to squeeze as much money as possible out of you with no intention of ever fixing the problem!

The problem with most malware is that the moment it runs on your computer, it will disable almost all of your protection which makes identifying it incredibly difficult.

So here are 4 easy tips for identifying malware on your computer:

  1. If a message pops up on tour screen asking for personal information – do not provide it.
  2. If your computr has been infected bya computer virus, shut it down without delay.
  3. Do not troubleshoot the problem with the infected computer.
  4. If you are unable to remove the virus yourself, contact a technology professional.