Three Dangerous Threats You Must Be Aware Of
One of the most dangerous aspects of online threats is their ability to cloak their existence. Hackers and the authors of malicious spyware and malware programs go to great lengths to create programs that are difficult to identify and remove.
That means a malicious program can be downloaded and doing its dirty work on your computer long before you are aware of it. Below are the two most common threats you’ll need to guard against with a brief explanation of what they are:
Spyware: Spyware is Internet jargon for hidden programs advertisers install on your PC without your permission to spy on you, gather information, and report this information about you and your online activities to some outside person.
Spyware is NOT harmless; it can be responsible for delivering a boatload of spam, altering your web browser, slowing down your PC, and serving up a bounty of pop-up ads. In some of the more extreme cases, spyware can also steal your identity, passwords, e-mail address book, and even use your PC for illegal activities.
Most spyware finds its way onto your computer via file downloads including free programs, music files, and screen savers. While you *think* you are only downloading a legitimate program to add emoticons to your e-mails, you are unknowingly also downloading a heaping spoonful of spyware programs.
Spyware piggybacks the download and runs undetected in the background collecting information about you and sending it back to its originator until it is removed. Although spyware has malicious components, it is not illegal, and it is not considered a virus because it doesn’t replicate itself or destroy data.
Malware: Malware is short for malicious software and represents all programs, viruses, Trojans, and worms that have malicious intent to damage or disrupt a system. Malware is harder to remove and will fight back when you try to clean it from your system. In some extreme cases, we have had to completely wipe out all of the information on the computers’ hard disk and start with a complete re-install of the operating system.
Among other things, a malware infection can corrupt your files, alter or delete data, distribute confidential information such as bank accounts, credit cards, and other personal data, disable hardware, prevent you from using your computer, and cause a hard drive to crash. Frequently, malware is also designed to send itself from your e-mail account to all the friends and colleagues in your address book without your knowledge or consent.
Hackers: Hackers are computer programmers turned evil. They are the people who design the spyware and malware programs that attack your computer.
Some of them have criminal intent and use these programs to steal money from individuals and companies. Some have a grudge against the big software vendors (like Microsoft) and seek to harm them by attacking their customers (you). Others do it purely for fun. Whatever the reason, hackers are getting more intelligent and sophisticated in their ability to access computer systems and networks.
Some spyware and malware CAN be easily removed using a program such as Spybot’s Search & Destroy (you can download it for free at: www.safer-networking.org) or Ad-Aware (you can download it at www.lavasoftusa.com/support/download).
However, not all malicious programs can be removed – or even detected – using the above software. Many programs integrate so deeply into the operating system that it takes a skilled technician several hours to fully diagnose and remove the malicious program. In some extreme cases, we have had no alternative, but to wipe the hard disk clean by deleting all of the files on it and re-installing the operating system.
Obviously this is NOT an ideal situation and we do everything within our power to avoid it. Unfortunately there are some malicious programs that are so intelligent that there is simply no other way of removing them.
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