Not All “Viruses” Are Viruses: 10 Malware Terms Explained

Not All “Viruses” Are Viruses: 10 Malware Terms Explained

Most people seem to call every type of malware a “virus”, but that isn’t technically accurate. You’ve probably heard of many more terms beyond virus: malware, worm, Trojan, rootkit, keylogger, spyware, and more. But what do all these terms mean? These terms aren’t just used by geeks. They make their way into even mainstream news stories about the latest web security problems and tech scares. Understanding them will help you understand the dangers you’ve heard about. Malware The word “malware” is short for “malicious software.” Many people use the word “virus” to indicate any type of harmful software, but a virus is actually just a specific type of malware. The word “malware” encompasses all harmful software, including all the ones listed below. Virus Let’s start with viruses. A virus is a type of malware that copies itself by infecting other files,  just as viruses in the real world infect biological cells and use those biological cells to reproduce copies of themselves. A virus can do many different things — watch in the background and steal your passwords, display advertisements, or just crash your computer — but the key thing that makes it a virus is how it spreads. When you run a virus, it will infect programs on your computer. When you run the program on another computer, the virus will infect programs on that computer, and so on. For example, a virus might infect program files on a USB stick. When the programs on that USB stick are run on another computer, the virus runs on the other computer and infects more program files. The virus will continue to spread in this way. Worm A worm is similar to a virus, but it spreads a different way. Rather than infecting files and relying on human activity to move those files around and run them on different systems, a worm spreads over computer networks on its own accord. For example, the Blaster and Sasser worms spread very quickly in the days of Windows XP because Windows XP did not come properly secured and exposed system services to the Internet. The worm accessed these system services over the Internet, exploited a vulnerability, and infected the computer. The worm then used the new infected computer to continue replicating itself. Such worms are less common now that Windows is properly firewalled by default, but worms can also spread in other ways — for example, by mass-emailing themselves to every email address in an affected user’s address book. Like a virus, a worm can do any number of other harmful things once it infects a computer. The key thing that makes it a worm is simply how it copies and spreads itself. Trojan (or Trojan Horse) A Trojan horse, or Trojan, is a type of malware that disguises itself as a legitimate file. When you download and run the program, the Trojan horse will run...

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How to secure your internet

How to secure your internet

More and more these days, we are becoming more aware of the need for security on our computers, and for our entire internet experience. But how do you keep things safe in a world full of hackers and cyber attacks? No method is 100% secure or foolproof, but you can certainly take steps to make your experience much safer.   Why do I need to secure my connection? You should secure your connection regardless of what you actually use your internet for. The reason for this is that most of us manage some sort of accounts online, including bank accounts. For many banks, the security of your online account can hinge on the security of your email account, and if your email account is compromised, then everything you do online could be compromised.   So how do hackers get access to your stuff? There are a lot of different ways this can be done, and I won’t go into detail about all of them, but I will explain the basics. One method is very simple, and it basically involves a hacker “sniffing” the traffic on a wireless network. Even if you’re only using your home network, wireless network security is very insecure, and is easily broken, so you cannot rely on your routers security settings to keep you safe. Always assume that other people could be on your network, and see what you’re doing. Once a wireless network has been accessed, an attacker can use a program like WireShark to capture all the traffic. Applications like WireShark, called packet sniffers, are able to capture and save all the traffic on your network, which means an attacker can read your user name and password. This is often protected by SSL (secure socket layer) encryption, but if it is intercepted before encryption takes place, this doesn’t do you any good.   Other methods may include malware on your system, which can log everything you type, as you type it, which compromises everything. Most antivirus programs will catch most of these rogue programs, but there is never any guarantee. Running Windows as an operating system is risky for web browsing, especially if you use Internet Explorer. If you are using Internet Explorer, please stop it now, and go download Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox. Internet Explorer is a bad idea because the browser itself is tied into the operating system, and if the browser is compromised (very common for Internet Explorer) then your entire system is compromised. The first step is using a better browser. Now, let’s explore some options to keep you more secure.   Securing your connection   Using a VPN What is a VPN? VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. When you are connected to a VPN, all network traffic is encrypted, and routed through a VPN server. The VPN server then communicates with the internet on behalf of...

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Computer Tips & Tricks Everyone Should Know

Computer Tips & Tricks Everyone Should Know

Many hardcore computer users might think themselves above learning new tricks, but there’s always new things to learn that will help improve your skills. Our bet: you will find at least one useful thing here that you didn’t know before. Inspired and with the help of this AskReddit discussion, we’ve compiled some of the most handy computer tricks you might not be taking advantage of. Our ultimate goal is to help you become more productive by shaving valuable seconds off your workflow. Of course, you can always pass along these tips to your not-so-savvy friends and family members to help them become better PC users as well.   General Tricks   Windows hidden “god mode” folder Windows offers a centralized Control Panel for all of the OS settings, which makes it easy for users to tweak everything from desktop background to setting up a VPN. To enter this mode, create a new folder with this exact name (copy and paste it): God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}. The folder icon will change to a Control Panel-style icon, and you will be able to jump in and change all kinds of settings. Note: Don’t try this on Windows Vista 64-bit as it’s known to cause a reboot loop. Use Problem Steps Recorder This handy tool automatically records any mouse clicks and takes screenshots for you. If you need tech assistance with your computer, go to Run by typing Windows + R, and then type “psr.” Use the tool and by the time you are finished, you can send this information, neatly compiled automatically, to the person helping you with the issue. It will make the process of finding the problem much easier for them, which means you will be able to get your system up and running faster. Find/Delete large files wasting space A handy tool called WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics) can be used to easily find which files and folders are taking up the most space on your drive. From there, you can delete them and open up a ton of storage space.   Reduce the number of programs running at startup If your PC is taking too long to boot, it’s probably because you have far too many programs running at startup. Reducing this is easy, it will make your PC launch noticeably faster and lighter upon first load. To change the items running at startup, go to Run using the hotkey Windows key + R, and type “msconfig.” A small window will appear (see the screenshot below), select the Startup tab. From here you will be able to turn off many startup programs, which can shave several seconds (or minutes) off your boot time. (Note Windows 8 has moved this functionality to the Task Manager). Try to make sure you research what you are turning off as some processes might be needed by third party programs or drivers you have installed.   Cloud backup important files If you’re working on a critical paper for...

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Computer cleaning tips

Computer cleaning tips

Introduction   Cleaning your computer and your computer components and peripherals helps keep the components and computer in good working condition and helps keep the computers from spreading germs. In the above picture, is a good example of how dirty the inside of your computer case can get. In this example, its obvious that all the dirt build up will prevent proper air flow and may even prevent the fan from working. Depending on the environment that your computer operates in determines how often you should clean your computer case. The below list is our recommendation and may change depending upon your computer’s environment.   General cleaning Tips   Below is a listing of general tips that should be taken when cleaning any of the components or peripherals of a computer as well as tips to help keep a computer clean. Never spray or squirt any liquid onto any computer component. If a spray is needed, spray the liquid onto a cloth and then use that cloth to rub down the component. You can use a vacuum to suck up dirt, dust, or hair around the computer on the outside case. However, do not use a vacuum for the inside of your computer as it generates a lot of static electricity that can damage the internal components of your computer. If you need to use a vacuum to clean the inside of your computer, use a portable battery powered vacuum designed to do this job or try using compressed air. When cleaning a component or the computer, turn it off before cleaning. Be cautious when using any cleaning solvents; some individuals may have allergic reactions to chemicals in cleaning solvents and some solvents can even damage the case. Try to always use water or a highly diluted solvent. When cleaning, be careful not to accidentally adjust any knobs or controls. In addition, when cleaning the back of the computer, if anything is plugged in, make sure not to disconnect any of the plugs. When cleaning fans, especially the smaller fans within a portable computer or laptop it’s suggested that you either hold the fan or place something in-between the fan blades to prevent it from spinning. Spraying compressed air into a fan or cleaning a fan with a vacuum may cause damage or back voltage to be generated. Never eat or drink around the computer. Limit smoking around the computer. Cleaning tools   Although many companies have created products to help improve the process of cleaning your computer and peripherals, users can also use household items to clean their computers and peripherals. Below is a listing of items you may need or want to use while cleaning your computer or computer peripherals. Keep in mind that some components in your computer may only be able to be cleaned using a product designed for cleaning that component; if this is the case, it...

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Computer Security Information

Computer Security Information

Information about computer and network security As more people use email and more services such as banking, mail orders and subscriptions become available through the Internet computer security becomes a necessary part of using a computer. But how secure is the Internet and what is computer security? Updating Software   It is very important to update your software periodically. When a program is released, particular internet browsers, it may contain flaws usually referred to as bugs. These bugs may not appear to be a problem but criminals will attempt to use these flaws for their own use. Keeping your software up to date will help keep your computer secure. Computers & Security   Before the Internet, computer security was limited to ‘closed systems‘ or network computers such as offices or banks where only people physically in the office could use the computer system. It was quite easy for the network supervisor to set up user names and passwords and monitor all the activity on the network. People have become used to logging on before they can use these types of computers or resources. With the advent of the Internet, computers users can now work in an ‘open system‘ and security has become more complicated. Even though you can now connect your home or office computer to the Internet and perform remote transactions you still want to be sure that the transaction is secure. The transaction takes place through the internet by routing the information through various computers before it reaches the computer you are connecting to. You want to be sure that no one observes the transaction along the way and collects or modifies your transaction information. This is where computer security comes in. There are many different types of security systems though most use a process called encryption. When you connect to your bank or other service to make a transaction you are often required to send your account number or user name as well as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) or password for verification. This information should only be sent after establishing a secure connection. If you are using an Internet browser you will see a small closed lock appear in the window of the browser. Once you are connected to a secure server any information you send or receive is scrambled or encrypted using a mathematical formula and then reassembled or decrypted at the other end. The computer user usually will not notice this happening as they perform their secure transaction. Anyone with criminal intent who intercepts your transaction will be treated to a stream of garbled nonsense – (e.g.. qANQR1DBwU4D560EJv6XqrMQB)! If this is the first time you use a new service you most often will need to setup an account and possibly download a small piece of software called a plug in which allows your computer to create the secure connection or link. The transaction often involves the exchange of a small file that keeps track of the transaction and can act a flag or bookmark when you next visit that website. These small files are...

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Computer Viruses – Information and tips

Computer Viruses – Information and tips

About Computer Viruses A virus is a program designed by a computer programmer (malicious hacker) to do a certain unwanted function. The virus program can be simply annoying like displaying a happy face on the user’s screen at a certain time and date. It can also be very destructive and damage your computer’s programs and files causing the computer to stop working. The reason why hackers create viruses are open for speculation. The most quoted reason is simply to see if it can be done. Other reasons are Ludite based “smash the machine” motivations, antiestablishment/anti-corporate actions, criminal intent, and various others that range into the “conspiracy theory” realm. Viruses take two basic forms   One is a boot sector viruses which infect the section of a disk that is first read by the computer. This type of virus infects the boot or master section of any disks that it comes in contact with. The second is a program virus that infects other programs when the infected program is run or executed. Some viruses infect both and others change themselves (polymorphic) depending on the programs they encounter. Though viruses do not damage computer hardware there have been attempts to create programs that will do things like run the hard drive until it fails or lodge itself in the computer’s clock (which has a rechargeable battery) allowing it to remain active even months after the computer has been unplugged. Other viruses affect certain microchips (BIOS chip for instance). These microchips need to be modified under normal computer use but the virus program can produce changes which cause them to fail. Other viruses will affect the characters or images displayed on the screen which may give the impression of monitor failure. Viruses can cause a great deal of damage to the computers it infects and can cost a lot of time and money to correct it. Computer viruses have been around for a long time, even before computers became widely used and they will likely remain with us forever. For that reason computer users will always need ways to protect themselves from virus programs. The main, common feature of a virus is that it is contagious! Their sole purpose is to spread and infect other computers. A computer gets a virus from an infected file. The virus might attach themselves to a game, a program (both shareware and commercial) or a file downloaded from a bulletin board or the Internet. You cannot get a virus from a plain email message or from a simple text file! That is because the virus needs to be ‘run‘ or executed before it can take effect. This usually happens when the user tries to open an infected program, accesses an infected disk or opens a file with an infected macro or script attached to it. A plain email message is made up of text which does not execute or run when opened. Modern email programs provide the ability to allow users to format email messages with HTML and attach scripts to...

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