Viruses … Viruses … Everywhere (Part 1 of 3)

Computer malware attacks are certainly becoming a very real problem.

It does not take long for a perfectly clean and well performing personal computer to become seriously ‘infected’ with all types of computer viruses or malware.

Malware is the general term used to refer to all of the various types of extremely clever but malicious and evil little programs that crawl into you computer uninvited and unwanted. There are so many different types of malware programs now that it would almost take up too much valuable blog space to enumerate them. Some of the better known types of malware are: worms, droppers, trojans, spyware, viruses (boot viruses, file infector viruses, macro viruses), adware, phishers, spammers, wabbits (seriously), ajars or backdoors, keyloggers, and URL injectors. All of these conspire to make your computing experience a misery.

Another part of the problem is that the tools that are supposed to protect our computers from this congealed mess of viral ooze that is constantly tyring to squeeze itself down the network and into our computers are just not up to the job. The Red Bull, radiation, and drug affected nerds who create and distribute this ooze seem to be able to make better and smarter ooze faster than the ooze-busters are able to keep up with. Also, there are all those computers that don’t have any computer virus ooze filters installed in the first place. And finally my experience is that none of the anti-virus anti-spyware tools, not even the really expensive ones, detect and stop all of the existing known viruses, spyware, and everything else.

Malware has many ways of oozing into and onto our computers. The favourite methods are via e-mail and contaminated—either accidentally or on purpose—Web sites. But there are other ways, such as via Instant Messaging (IM). Ever get an IM from a friend but you know they cannot be on a computer? This is probably an IM viral bot (robot) sending you an IM. The IM will contain a semi-interesting link (like a link to a picture with the text “Is this really you in this picture? I don’t remember you going to this party”). When you go to the link in the IM, and there is always a link to go to, the link—which often does not even go to a picture—will attempt to infect you. Whether it is successful or not will depend on how good the ooze filter, oops, I mean virus scanner, you have installed is. If it detects that malware is trying to install and warns you then you had better answer correctly. If you don’t block it, and it is a virus, then you will still get infected even though your scanner detected it.

Most large companies have at least two layers of malware filtering installed. They will have malware scanning and filtering servers at the gateway (which all inbound and outbound network traffic, including all e-mail, has to pass through), and also installed on each computer connected to the network. Some companies may have three layers and I know of at least two companies that have four layers. It costs money and it slows network traffic down and it annoys users because of the false positives—which are virus alerts for code that are not viruses but your e-mail gets quarantined or trashed anyway—but that is the ‘cost’ of keeping malware out.

Typically, once it has got itself installed, malware does not put up a screen that tells you that it has managed to defeat all your ooze filters and install itself nicely—in about 50 places so you have no chance of removing it—on your computer. But as the number of malware ooze sludge balls getting into your computer increase you will start to see some tell tail signs. Signs such as:

  • Printing may slow down significantly.
  • Your computer’s performance drops off and it responds slowly, because all that busy malware is running hidden in the background. Installing itself even deeper and also letting in as many other bits of malware that it can find on the network.
  • The computer may start to re-boot itself unexpectedly. This is so the malware can install some of its buddies and mates it has just downloaded, or so it can totally disable your virus scanner.
  • You notice that your virus scanner has been disabled, or it comes up with an expiry and uninstalls well before it has actually expired.
  • You get ‘splash’ screens telling you that some viruses have been found on your computer and you need to download a special program to sort things out. But the program telling you this is not a program you installed or even recognise, although it looks like it might be something from Microsoft—but it’s not! It is malware trying to con you into downloading some more, even more evil, malware.

So endith Part 1.

Coming soon—Part 2: A story about a seriously cute girl (she might let me put a picture in, I will see how I go) who recently suffered a really bad outbreak of ooze, er, malware. Features Dr. Mike and the fake maltalier.