You know that your business needs protection against the operational and economic damage that can be caused by cybercrime, and you undoubtedly subscribe to a security program to keep your electronically stored information safe from intrusion.
If you don’t have a cybersecurity program running on your network as well as on all of your portable devices, you’re at unacceptable risk of business interruption.
No matter how small your operation is, you need multiple layers of security, including endpoint protection, email, web and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to safeguard your users regardless of device, application, network or location.
But do you know what threats you actually need protection against? Viruses, worms, ransomware and the like are terms that are tossed around, and most of us think we know what they mean. Their actual definitions, properties and potential for harm, though, can be unclear.
Here are basics:
Harmless vs. Dangerous Spyware
As the name suggests, spyware is the term for software that runs on your computer and keeps tabs on what you do.
There are two kinds of spyware, one being harmless and the other being malicious software created by criminals.
- “Cookies” are messages that web servers pass to your browser when you visit websites. They contain information about your visit to the site as well as any information you’ve voluntarily offered. When you revisit the site, your browser passes the information back to it, allowing Amazon, for example, to display a list of items you might like. Only the website that creates a cookie can access it, and cookies cannot transmit viruses. Recent regulations require websites to let you accept or opt out of cookies when you visit.
- Malicious spyware, on the other hand, isn’t meant to be helpful. The software is downloaded secretly and records your passwords, codes and website visits. Normally it does this by recording keystrokes as you type, and in this way it can steal social security numbers, banking and financial details and access to every bit of sensitive data you have.
Viruses vs. Worms
Viruses and worms are not the same thing. For a virus to run, it requires an active host program or or an active operating system that is already infected.
Worms are stand-alone malicious programs that can replicate themselves on computer networks without any additional operations.
- Viruses are typically attached to an executable file or word document.They commonly spread via email attachment downloads and file sharing and by visits to infected websites. Once a virus has nestled in your system, it remains quiet and undetected until the infected program is activated, at which time it starts running and replicating, affecting files, boot sectors, macros and scripts.
- Worms don’t require a host program or file. They generally get into your system via a network connection or a downloaded file and then can run rampant and self-replicate. What’s worse, each generation of a worm can reproduce itself and quickly spread through computer networks and the internet.
And What’s a Trojan?
A Trojan, like the Trojan horse of Greek mythology, presents itself as legitimate but is not.
Once it has deceived you into downloading and executing it, a Trojan gives criminals access to your system for purposes of spying, tampering with data, disrupting operations and even remotely taking complete backdoor control of entire computer networks.
Fortunately, one thing Trojans cannot do is self-replicate.
Among the most devious and damaging Trojans are:
- Trojan-Downloader programs that can download and install new malware on your computer.
- Trojan-Dropper programsthat are designed to prevent malware from being detected.
- Rootkit Trojans that give unauthorized users access to restricted areas of your system.
- Trojan-DDoS programs that conduct Denial of Service attacks by overwhelming a target address to the point it stops responding to legitimate users, effectively shutting down business operations.
- Trojan-FakeAV programs are ransomware that masquerade as antivirus software and warn you of a threat when none actually exists. You may have had a screen pop up with a frightening advisory to take some action or call a number immediately to ward off computer disaster. That’s a FakeAV program intended to extort payment from you in exchange for the removal of the non-existent threat.
Knowing the threats that exist doesn’t make them go away, of course. So long as there are criminals intent on making misery for your business, you have to do what you can to protect yourself from them.