A Trojan horse may not be a term you’re familiar with, but there’s a good chance you or someone you know has been affected by one.
What it is:
A malicious program that is disguised as, or embedded within, legitimate software. It is an executable file that will install itself and run automatically once it’s downloaded.
What it can do:
- Delete your files.
- Use your computer to hack other computers.
- Watch you through your web cam.
- Log your keystrokes (such as a credit card number you entered in an online purchase).
- Record usernames, passwords and other personal information.
Worms are a common threat to computers and the Internet as a whole.
What they are:
A worm, unlike a virus, goes to work on its own without attaching itself to files or programs. It lives in your computer memory, doesn’t damage or alter the hard drive and propagates by sending itself to other computers in a network – whether within a company or the Internet itself.
What they can do:
- Spread to everyone in your contact list.
- Cause a tremendous amount of damage by shutting down parts of the Internet, wreaking havoc on an internal network and costing companies enormous amounts of lost revenue.
What it is:
Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to your computer or your files and displays a message that demands payment in order for the restriction to be removed. The two most common means of infection appear to be phishing emails that contain malicious attachments and website pop-up advertisements.
What it can do:
There are two common types of ransomware:
- Lockscreen ransomware: displays an image that prevents you from accessing your computer
- Encryption ransomware: encrypts files on your system’s hard drive and sometimes on shared network drives, USB drives, external hard drives, and even some cloud storage drives, preventing you from opening them
Ransomware will display a notification stating that your computer or data have been locked and demanding a payment be made for you to regain access. Sometimes the notification states that authorities have detected illegal activity on your computer, and that the payment is a fine to avoid prosecution.
What you can do:
Do not pay the ransom. These threats are meant to scare and intimidate you, and they do not come from a law enforcement agency. Even if you submit payment, there is no guarantee that you will regain access to your system.
If your computer has been infected (i.e. you are unable to access your computer or your files have been encrypted), contact a reputable computer technician or specialist to find out whether your computer can be repaired and your data retrieved.
In order to lessen the impact of a ransomware infection, be sure to regularly back-up your data with a removable external storage drive. It’s possible that your files might be irretrievable; having an up-to-date backup could be invaluable.
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