Ransomware is a when cybercriminals kidnap your data (via encryption) and then demand money so that you can decrypt your own data. It sounds scary and it certainly is! Here are the top seven things you need to know about ransomware. Continue reading
What is a virus and is it the same as malware?
Malware describes software designed to act maliciously on a computer. The name ‘malware’ is a shorthand for ‘malicious software’ and describes exactly what it is. A computer virus is a single type of malware that can cause harm to your PC, but it is only one of many. Other types of malware are listed below.
Short for advertising-supported software, adware is a type of malware that delivers adverts to your computer. These advertisements often pop-up and are intrusive, irritating and designed to trick you into clicking something you don’t want. A common example of malware is pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.
Adware often comes bundled with “free” versions of software that uses these intrusive advertising to make money. Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and are purposely made to be difficult to remove.
Spyware is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their consent or knowledge. Spyware is often installed in the background, collects keyboard input and can harvest data from the computer, monitor web activity and more.
Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing the spyware themselves instead of a software application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the stolen data is used elsewhere (ie in a fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts).
A computer virus is a form of malware that is installed inadvertently, causing damage to the computer and / or user. A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins and bank information from the keyboard or it might steal or delete data, interrupt programs or cause the computer to crash.
Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform illegal tasks remotely for hackers. The first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs are running. A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem.
Ransomware is a very malicious variety of malware that prevents the user from accessing their own files and data until a ransom is paid. Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until they receive money usually in the form of bitcoin.
Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.
Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious file attachments, email or through a vulnerability in the computer system.
Another type of malware is the computer worm. Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system. Often these programs harm their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers and using up all the available resources.
While similar to a virus a worm is able to both copies of itself and spread independently. A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment while worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.
If you would like to make your business secure from malware, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing a computer program is hard and writing a virus is even harder (BTW you don’t even need programming skills as viruses templates can be bought online), so why do people do it? In the majority of instances it comes down to 3 reasons:
- Bragging rights
- Simply being a jerk.
While bragging or being a jerk is pretty self-explanatory, the money side is more interesting. Here are some of the ways people make money with viruses:
Bank account theft: As with real bank robbers virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to the money in your bank account. Once they have your login details (obtained via a key logger) they simply transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person by selling your details to the highest bidder.
Ransomware: Sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for a key to unlock you own data. Without a true backup procedure in place you are at their mercy. Once you have paid the nightmare may not be over as they now know you are an easy target and request even more money.
Ad swappers: A very cheeky technique which you may never know is happening to you. This scam is when a virus puts annoying ads on websites you visit or places affiliate codes on pages. When you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – the affiliate codes allow the hacker to get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you are infected.
Bitcoin mining: You have heard of digital currencies being used for payments but did you know you can also earn money via bitcoin mining? You can earn this money by running specialized software on your computer but sometimes this means paying more in running costs than you would actually make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to use the processing power on other people’s computers.
Botnets: If infected with a botnet, a computer can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In most cases they’ll usually set the infected computers to overwhelm a target computer and blackmail the owners of that computer – the ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your computer.”
Account stealing: Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked allowing other users a free ride by using your accounts. Gaming accounts open up another world of financial incentives with those digital items that people work hard for in the games worth a pretty penny on the black market.
These are just a few of the ways people make money through viruses and malware. If you know of any others please leave a comment below.
Give us a call at 08 8326 4364 to make sure your computer is secure and protected.