Software as we know it has simplified everything that we do in our day to day life. A collection of data which informs a computer or controls a network to do specific tasks is what software is. But most good things always have a flip side to them and so does software.
Software being highly malleable can be written to perform harmful actions as well, and this article compares three such variants which have been known to affect users.
This is software designed to cause harm to a user’s system by inhibiting its functions. It finds its way onto systems through undisclosed downloads or by showing itself as an unsuspicious file which prompts a user to download it.
It is described by terms such as adware, worms, Trojan horses and many more. Malicious actions are its primary intention, and it does so through executable codes or scripts. Malware does comprise the other two subjects covered in this article.
The Stuxnet worm from 2010 is an example of malware which required physical interaction for implementation. It infected computers through their USB drives and took control over computers that had access to industrial control systems.
Ransomware is a specific type of virus that arose from cryptovirology. Its main aim is to threaten a user with their information for a ransom. We have covered the types of files ransomware affects in another article here.
The basic gist of ransomware is that once it finds its way onto your computer, it uses a set of public and private keys to lock access to your files. The instigator of the attack owns the private key. Once the ransom has been paid the attacker revokes the encryption and makes the files accessible again.
An example of a ransomware attack is the WannaCry ransom attack which targeted Windows PC’s and encrypted their files while demanding bitcoins as ransom.
Spyware can be hidden in the code of legitimate or harmful software and works in the background without any intimation. As suggested by the name, this type of software collects user data and shares it with interested parties.
Spyware can collect data such as keyboard entries and track mouse clicks while also capturing valuable information such as internet browsing history, bank information, etc.
Some types of spyware are keyloggers and rootkits. Keyloggers are usually used by corporates to monitor the usage of their devices by employees. Rootkits enable access to specific areas in a computer; an instance where this was exploited was Sony BMG’s case.
A rootkit deployed by Sony BMG allowed the company to prevent the illicit sharing of their music while tracking a user’s listening habits without their consent.
Malware, Ransomware, and Spyware are software that rises from the same boat and is equally harmful in their unique ways.
Actions performed on a computer, illegal tracking of personal data and being locked out of your own system against your wishes is something that no user wants and to that end protection against harmful software should be everyone’s priority.
To protect against such attacks one should –
- Keep that OS up to date.
- Use good antivirus programs
- Set up firewalls
- Look carefully into the files being downloaded and the links being opened
A 20-year-old with an interest in technology and video games. When not doing anything related to either of these you will find him with his books, educational or not.