cyber security: Can you tell a bug from a bot? Know your malware here – The Economic Times–15.10.2017

As more and more people take to internet transactions after the government’s push for a ‘Digital India’, the dangers of a connected world also intensify.

Malware, literally, is a software that’s bad. It sneaks into your system, steals your personal data, deletes files and can even disable your system. A malicious automated code, it replicates itself from one computer to another.

As more and more people take to internet transactions after the government’s push for a ‘Digital India’, the dangers of a connected world also intensify. Malware is not easy to detect and can keep hiding in your computer for a long time. Hence, it is crucial to know ‘aapke computer mein kaun rehta hai’. It comes in several types. Below are the most common ones:

Adware
This malware is so much in your face that it’s difficult to ignore it. As the name suggests, this is an advertising malware which presents unwanted advertisement-like those irritating indefinite pop-ups-using intrusive and dangerous methods.

Adware is generally annoying, but at its worst, it is capable of spying by undermining the security settings to track your activities and display ads where it normally wouldn’t have access. Apart from slowing down your system, this malware also eats up on your internet data. Can you get rid of this malware? Disabling scripts is not always the solution. Adware-removal tools can be very useful in fighting this menace.

Bot
A bot is a type of malware that allows a hacker to take control of the targeted computer. Also known as ‘Web robots, bots are usually part of a network of infected machines, known as a “botnet”, controlled by cyber criminals called ‘”botmasters”.

After taking control of your system, a bot can carry out a variety of automated tasks which can show strange messages, slow down your system or even crash it. With bots, a hacker can steal your confidential information by sending spams, deny certain services on the internet, and even engage in ‘click fraud’.

To protect yourself from a bot attack, make sure you have turned on the ‘automatically update’ settings on your system. Install the most effective antivirus software. Verify the source before opening any email attachment. Websites can guard against bots with CAPTCHA tests that verify a user as human.

Jeanson James Ancheta was probably one of the first, if not the first, persons to use botnets. He started to work with botnets robot, a computer worm back in 2004 which would spread its network of infected computers that eventually led to US military computers being compromised. Ultimately, he had to serve around 60 months in prison for his actions and paid $58,000 in fines.

Bug
In the context of software, a bug is a flaw that produces an undesired outcome. These flaws are usually generated due to human error and typically exist in the source code or compilers of a programme. Minor bugs only slightly affect a programme’s behaviour and, as a result, can go for long periods of time before being discovered. More significant bugs can cause crashing or freezing. Security bugs are the most severe type of bugs. They can allow attackers to bypass user authentication, override access privileges and steal data. Bugs can be prevented with developer education, quality control and code analysis tools.

Ransomware
This malware prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the screen or the user’s files unless a ransom is paid through certain online payment methods to get a decrypt key. Ransomware or “scareware” operators commonly specify ransom payments in bitcoins. The malware can be downloaded onto one’s systems when the user visits a malicious or compromised websites, or as a payload either dropped or downloaded by other malware.

WannaCry, a ransomware that was recently in news, originally spread via malicious Dropbox URLs embedded in spam this May. It began exploiting a vulnerability in the SMB Server, thus resulting in the biggest ransomware attack in history.

Rootkit
Allowing viruses to hide in ‘plain sight’, this notorious malware works discreetly, often causing an anti-virus programme to miss its detection. A rootkit is a software designed to hide the fact that an operating system has been compromised. Rootkit itself isn’t harmful; it is used to hide malware such as bots and worms.

Because rootkits are activated before your operating system even boots up, they are very difficult to detect and remove, providing a powerful way for attackers to access and use the targeted computer without the owner’s notice.

According to a report by cyber security company Check Point Software, a user-mode Rootkit for Windows that can hide files, build a hidden backdoor was the biggest malware threat in August 2017.

Spyware
This malware is hard to detect. It collects information about your surfing habits, browsing history and data such as credit card number. This information is then passed on to third parties, putting your data at risk without letting you know.

Anti-virus software can help detect a spyware in a system. Use extreme caution if you frequently visit file-sharing sites. Beware of clicking on pop-up ads to prevent yourself from becoming a victim to spyware malware.

The New York Times reported on June 19, 2017 that a spyware in Mexico had targeted lawyers working for a prominent human rights group, Centro Prodh, and two influential journalists who had exposed corruption and abuse in the Mexican government.

Trojan
This malware gets its name from the epic Odyssey in which Greeks soldiers hid into a giant wooden horse to sneak into the city of Troy.

Often disguised as legitimate software to deceive users, Trojans can be employed by cyber thieves and hackers trying to gain access to your system. Once the Trojan is activated, it gives backdoor access to your system to hackers who can spy on you, steal your personal data and even disrupt the performance of your system. You can defend your system against a Trojan attack by installing an effective anti-malware software and updating it regularly. Also, stay away from pirated material and dubious links to project your system from any Trojan attack. In 2011, computers in the Japanese parliament suffered a Trojan attack originating from China.

Virus
True to its name, a virus has the ability to replicate itself and spread from host to host. A computer virus is a type of malicious code or programme written to alter the way a computer operates. A virus can remain dormant on your system and become active only when you run the infected programme that in turn causes the virus code to be activated. From stealing your passwords to spamming your email contacts and corrupting files, a virus is capable of doing devastating things to your system. In order to protect your system from a virus attack, do not open emails from unrecognised sources, don’t give strangers access to your system, beware of installing software from random websites and use a quality anti-virus suite. ILOVEYOU is one of the most notorious and destructive viruses of all time. In 2000, it was the most damaging malware event.

Worm
A computer worm is a malware that self-replicates, spreading to other uninfected computers. Worms often use parts of an operating system that are automatic and are not visible to the user. USB is a very common host for the worm. Email worms also spread by creating and sending messages to all the addresses in your address list. Stuxnet, one of the most notorious computer worms to date, consists of a worm component which spreads the malware through the sharing of infected USB devices.

A computer worm can be spread via file-sharing networks, attachments and links to infected sites. Since worms exploit vulnerabilities, it is highly recommended that you install a security software along with an additional precaution of a firewall.

The internet is not a very safe place, and with the number of hacking incidents increasing around the globe, it is important to keep abreast of the latest information and one’s system updated with the latest anti-malware. In order to fight the menace of malware, it is important to know how it works and how you can save your system from a malicious attack.

(This article is from our Cyber crime special series ‘ Dangers of Living in a Connected World ‘)

via cyber security: Can you tell a bug from a bot? Know your malware here – The Economic Times

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