Anti-Virus Explained – Malware, Trojan Horse, WHA … ??

Posted on February 5th, by Cathy Olsen in Technology Explained. No Comments


So, I had a follow-up question regarding Anti-Virus software. 

How can my computer STILL get infected if I have anti-virus software?

What is MalwareMalware is short for malicious software.  It is any software that is designed to infiltrate a computer without the users consent.  Malware includes the following attack vectors:

  • Computer Virus -A program that can copy itself and infect a computer.
  • Worm – A special type of virus that is self-replicating.
  • Trojan Horse – A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application.  (ring a bell? Greek History … Trojan Horse?) This program can collect and transmit data, gain remote access to your computer, or destroy different components of the computer – this is known as a Denial of Service  (DoS) attack.
  • Spyware – Any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes
  • Rootkit – Software installed to hide the fact that the computer has been compromised


So, until recently malware would spread through e-mail or downloaded attachments.  Now, the majority of malware infects machines through the browser.  You could be browsing the web to pretty benign sites and still get infected.

HOW??  That's SOOO mean!!! I didn't do anything wrong!  I didn't download anything!! It's not FAIR!!

How does it work?  Malware is injected into ads, or widgets that appear on the website.  The Malware attempts to find and exploit any weaknesses of the browser. (Think of a robber who is scoping out a house, they will make sure no one is home, they will find the best entrance, heck!  They may find that the garage door is open which leads to the back door!)  Malware can be really tricky and hide itself in multiple layers of the website code so that your Anti-Virus Software will not pick it up (Obfuscated Code).

Next: Since there was a way to exploit a weakness in the browser the Malware can establish a malicous connection to your computer.  Now the malware will attempt to exploit any weaknesses of the operating system to gain further access.  This is when your computer starts to “crash,” you get tons of pop-ups, and most likely because of a root-kit (do we need a vocabulary test?) your anti-virus software will not be able to remove the malware. You will have to do a full system restore. Gak!!

Case in point:  My husband's computer at work has been infected multiple times.  They couldn't figure out what was going on.  He didn't download anything, he doesn't visit any weird sites.  Why did the computer keep on crashing?   My neighbor was having the same problem and figured out that it was a local classified ad site.  THAT WAS IT! (we are big fans of the second-hand goods market).  There was (most likely) Malware installed on the ad links on the classified site.

So how do you protect yourself?  Coming soon …

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