Know Your Enemies

by Tony Rushin

In previous blogs I highlighted the perils of phishing – particularly spear-phishing – and provided tips to battle these bad guys who use phishing to trick you in order to get your userid and password.  Phishing is the most common tactic used in on-line identity theft but in the big picture is still dwarfed by a more mundane identity theft tactic: dumpster diving.  Buy a shredder and use it!

Today I’m launching a blog series on the “the big 4” of malicious software: viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware.  In subsequent blogs I’ll share tips on how to beat these bad guys but first, it’s important to know the enemy.  Like Sun Tzu states in The Art of War:

“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.  If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.  If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”

(FYI, here is a good article applying The Art of War for trial lawyers.)

Malicious software, more commonly referred to as malware, comes in many forms but here are the big 4:

Virus: A computer virus is a program that can copy itself and infect a computer and – potentially – multiple computers.  Viruses typically attach to an existing program: launch the program and you unwittingly launch the virus.  Just like biological viruses, the symptoms and damage of computer viruses vary widely: almost no symptoms; a little slowness in performance; major problems such as corrupt or erased files; a destroyed computer not worth fixing.

Worm: A computer worm self-replicates throughout the network via the host (target) computer.  Most worms carry a payload – sometimes installing a back door into your computer so it can be turned into a zombie for a future distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.  Even if the worm doesn’t have a payload, it can eat up bandwidth and negatively affect the performance of your computer and the network.

Trojan horse: A computer Trojan is a program that masquerades as a helpful application while its real intent is to steal and/or destroy information on your computer.  Unlike a virus or worm, a Trojan cannot replicate itself.  One of the sneakiest forms of a Trojan is one that is masquerading as security software.

Spyware: Computer spyware is a program that collects information from your computer and transmits it back to the source.  Like a Trojan, it does not replicate.  Spyware may get on your computer via a Trojan or worm payload.  Spyware typically does not do anything to make itself known to the user but, depending on the information it’s stealing, can be very harmful.

That wraps up this blog.  My next few blogs will focus on tips to help you thwart off these malware attacks and/or clean up your computer if it becomes infected.  In the meantime, if you want to test what you learned about malware, here’s a quick, entertaining quiz.

As always… “let’s be careful out there”!

This is the 7th of 23 blogs I’m writing to celebrate the Atlanta Association of Legal Administrators’ 23rd annual Business Partner Expo.  This year the Business Partner Expo will be held from 3:00 – 6:30 pm on August 17th at the Cobb Galleria.  Over 150 legal administrators and their guests are expected to be on hand learning about the latest technologies, finding solutions to business issues, uncovering emerging trends and developing valuable partnerships to help their law firms.  Already an AALA member?  I’ll see you there!  Not an AALA member?  Give me a call at 404.943.0800 x133 to discuss how you might be able to attend as a guest!

1 Comment

  1. Tuesday Tip: We Hate Bad Guys on November 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    […] on a long, nasty list of malware that bad guys have been circulating.  .  This malware is a Trojan Horse (a program that masquerades as a helpful app) and also demands a ransom (another name for this type of malware is “ransomware;” I really […]

Leave a Comment