Adware ? Spyware ? Trojan ? Virus ?
Collectively known as Malware (Malicious Software) these entities usually get into a computer via some type of internet activity such as downloading software, file-sharing, visiting certain websites and even activities as simple as opening an email especially if it is a joke type email containing pictures or video files.
Without going into too much detail here are some simple definitions of things that can get onto your computer via the internet. (See Protection & Control for a list of the most common Security and Computer Management Tools to help defend against these threats.)
via the internet
CookiesHTTP cookies are little markers or messages that web servers deposit on your computer via your web browser while you are navigating around the internet. Cookies are small text files (.txt) that contain information that your computer stores for such functions as allowing your computer to remember pages visited and web servers to recognize previous visitors, record log-in authentication data and web page personalisation information etc.
Most internet users will have some awareness of cookies and apart from clogging the Temporary Internet files folder, they are relatively useful. As text files they will not self execute - that is, run a program, so you can not get a virus from one. Cookies can be blocked but this will slow down site navigation and functionality.
Cookies on your computer will probably be stored in a folder such as C:\Documents and Settings\pc\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files. On Windows XP you can access it via Control Panel, Internet Options, and the settings button for cookies on the "General" tab.
|Assessment -||Benign / Useful, small .txt information files may add to clutter in temp files|
AdwareAdware applications are designed to display advertising to the user (by fair means or foul). Sometimes these mini programs are legitimately bundled with software that is freely available to download where the sale of advertising is merely the way that the software maker generates some income out of useful products that are being given away.
Adware includes banners and the more annoying Pop-ups, but the most extreme of these type of programs run in the background gathering and transmitting more information about you than you are aware of or comfortable with. Most often the data collected is on your browsing habits, searches and purchasing preferences. This knowledge is used to build individual and group user profiles to assist in the targeting of advertising offerings.
|Assessment -||Intrusive / Deceptive/ Resource hungry/ Unauthorised|
SpywareSpyware is similar but more sinister than Adware.
As the name suggests these programs watch and log what a user does, and either stores this information for later retrieval, transmits it directly via the web or by periodic secret emails to the monitoring computer. The purpose of information ranges from trying to sell you products or monitoring internet game play all the way to allowing the intruder almost as much ability to control their computer as the owner.
They include Key loggers and Password stealers that look over your shoulder to grab information as you use your computer. Often spyware incorporates a trojan to initially gain access to a system before the monitoring software is downloaded and for that reason sometimes the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Spyware infections can come as an e-mail or instant messaging attachments. Other common access points for Spyware includes unintentional loading by a user when installing some types of freeware or shareware or as parasite attachment in a file sharing download.
|Assessment -||Dangerous, Deceptive/Watchers & Potential Kidnappers|
TrojansTrojans are the gate breakers for other programs. Their basic function is to be small so they be unnoticed when bundled with other software, lodge themselves in an obscure part of the registry, and to open a port from the host computer that can allow intrusion by a remote user or program download.
|Assessment -||Dangerous !! Unless removed will allow access to a malicious user or insertion of other dangerous software.|
VirusesPossibly the best known type of malware is the computer virus, which is a small program designed to attack some part of your operating system or corrupt the functionality of your software. The reason that they are created is to do harm rather than allowing an attacker access to your system. The harm caused can range from a message being displayed on a certain date to total collapse of your computer.
Computer viruses are also designed to replicate themselves and the most common sources of infection that you should be aware of are:
- an executable attachment via email,
- unintentional copying to a removable device such as a CD or USB drives,
- Via a group of networked computers once it has penetrated the firewall
- With internet generated video and audio files
- Via internet downloads of infected or intentionally malicious programs
- as attachments to joke pictures and funny animated emails sent to you from friends.
Often the term virus is used to denote anything bad that has infected a computer but may not necessarily be a virus.
|Assessment -||Dangerous !! Doesn′t matter how it got there, you need to get rid of it!|
WormsFrom the acronym "Write Once, Read Many," Worms are like viruses that do not need a host program to replicate. A worm exploits vulnerabilities in the host operating system to propagate across a network once the outer security defenses have been infiltrated.
They disrupt normal computer functions by using the computing power of an infected machine to attack other computers and they can also be spread from an infected computer as an email attachment to try to gain access to other networks.
|Assessment -||Dangerous !! Needs to be removed immediately.|
RootkitsRootkits are programs that are designed to mask the function of trojans and spyware. They will attempt to make them appear as part of the operating system and their primary purpose is to avoid detection.
|Assessment -||Dangerous, because it is hiding other sinister applications at work on your computer.|
PhishingTechnically not malware, but phishing emails are also a serious internet security threat, therefore we mention them here. Phishing scams use emails broadcast to many recipients attempting to deceive the receiver into believing that the email has been sent by a banking or payment organisation and seeking verification of account password information to be sent by return. For more information on this threat click this link phishing email scams
|Assessment -||Dangerous !! NEVER give out your passwords or credit card numbers in answer to an email request.|