Threats to your Computer System (and your bank balance)
From malicious software to a lack of care by yourself and others.
As computer use becomes increasingly widespread, the threats to your computers from malicious software and other approaches increases. These threats can slow your system down, damage it so that only a complete re-installation will repair it, or access you personal information and bank details.
These threats can be divided into two groups Malicious Software and Other Dangers including a lack of care and attention.
Malicious Software falls broadly into three groups
These are pieces of computer code (short programs) that can attach themselves to documents or other programs. Like human viruses they have the ability to copy or replicate themselves, and thus spread.
Worms have some similarity to viruses but are stand alone programs which again can replicate and send copies of themselves to other computers.
Unlike viruses these do not have the ability to self-replicate as such they may not be recognised up by some anti-virus programs. Some called 'tracking cookies' will track which web pages you look at on the Internet. But far worse are Trojans (as in the Trojan Horse) which can seriously compromise your system. They are usually inadvertently invited in by clicking a seemingly innocent link on a web page, or an attachment in an email.
Computer viruses equate to infectious diseases in humans, whilst Spyware/Trojans are more akin to 'lifestyle diseases' which are to an extent the result of ones own behaviour.
However, once a trojan is installed on the system they may well invite other 'nasties' including viruses to join them; equally some viruses will download spyware and Trojans. Thus the PC can rapidly come to suffer from multiple infections. There is a parallel with human health in that when a body is weakened by infection it becomes susceptible to other illnesses. The more recent bugs to come on the scene represent what is called a 'blended threat' having the some of the characteristics of viruses, trojans, worms and spyware.
For all infections the "pay load" - the damage they do - can vary from changing the 'home page' of Internet Explorer or slowing your system down; to rendering the computer almost unworkable, to bringing down the office network. Some are designed to capture sensitive information by logging all your keyboard activity including pass words or 'screen grabbing' and pass the information on to fraudsters through the Internet.
Generic terms for all of these items of malicious software are Malware or Scumware!
Other threats include:
Phishing (i.e. Fishing)
These are spurious emails (or occasionally websites) which seek to obtain critical sensitive information from you. Typically they take the form of an email from your Bank saying that they have had a system crash (or whatever) and asking you to reconfirm your security details. The web site to which you are directed looks like the real thing. Others may be attempting to gain access to your company's computer network, again by asking you for your password etc.
Check how good you are at spotting a bogus email. Try this nice online test from Sonic Wall
N.B. Beware of phone calls along these lines purportedly from your Internet Service Provider, IT Department or Bank. Not all computer crime makes use of a computer.
Similar to he above, although less common now, are bogus emails purporting to come from Microsoft about a new update. These will either have an attachment containing a virus or Trojan, or links to a site with the same. Microsoft NEVER contact users in this manner, you should use Windows Update instead.
Remote computer users who endeavour to gain access to other systems. Whilst horror stories abound, most hackers need to have knowledge of passwords to gain complete control (see phishing above). However, sometimes a piece of Trojan software installed on your system gives them access.
These are often the most dangerous threat to your business system. Taking your laptop home at night and allowing the younger generation to surf the net ('Project Work') is almost certain to get it infected. They might seem like whiz-kids, but usually they are oblivious of the dangers. A piece of free software recommended by one of their mates is usually NOT Recommended! Music and file-sharing software, is not only breaching copyright, but can affect your system’s performance. (See Prudence)
You may have received an email from a friend or associate warning you of a new very dangerous virus. These emails usually contain DIRE warnings and the advice to forward the warning to all your contacts. Almost invariably they are HOAXES. If you do receive one the first thing to do is a search on Google for a particular phrase within the email, which should confirm whether it is genuine or a hoax.
In general don't forward chain letters.