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On the Origin and Evolution of Computer Viruses
Trends and industry analysts say the efforts of propagators will not let up. Last year was the first mobile phone virus, and Bluetooth technology, for example, is exacerbating security threats. In the United States, 35% of computers are infected, while in China and India the proportion reaches 50%.
Security experts report that the first virus spread as early as 1981. However, Fred Cohen wrote in his seminal study that the first virus was conceived on November 3, 1983, as an experiment. Since then, viruses and malware have wreaked havoc on computer systems worldwide.
Risks via the Internet
With the advent of communication developments such as the Internet, cell phones, and Bluetooth (a short-range radio technology that simplifies wireless communication between devices such as computers and cell phones. Its purpose is to connect these devices to the Internet quickly and easily), computer viruses are widespread. is spreading at an alarming rate. The downside of such developments is that where previously only a few computers were infected, now thousands, if not millions, are at the mercy of virus authors.
Early threats disable 10% of infected computers
In 1987, a large network (ARPANET) used by universities and the United States government was infected by a virus. Robert Morris, the son of a National Security Agency computer security expert, sent malicious code over the ARPANET that affected about 10% of connected computers—only 60,000 hosts were connected to the network at the time. The code replicated itself and filtered through the network computers; so the size of the files filled the memory of the computers, thus crashing many machines.
An alarming 66% of computers in the United States are infected with spyware and 35% are infected with viruses. Today, an estimated 1.21 billion people (Computer Industry Almanac) are connected to the Internet, and millions of computers are connected to chat, exchange files, send e-mail, and generally communicate. Can you imagine how easy it is to spread a virus or malware?
An anti-spyware developer reported that the malware infection rate for enterprises is around 7%, and adware is running on an incredible 52% of machines. 3-5% of company machines had a keylogger. At home, this ratio is much higher. The same antispyware developer reports that 66% of computers scanned by its online tool were infected with an average of 25 spyware entities. If someone were to define cookies as spyware, the rate could reach up to 88%! Adware was found on 64% of the machines. According to the company’s report, viruses and Trojans were found on 7% and 19% of the machines, respectively.
According to Panda Software, for example, more than 50% of computers in India and China are infected with viruses. In the United States and the United Kingdom, the figure is 35%. Overall, this means that many people remain without active protection even today.
Antivirus is not enough
According to a study conducted by security firm Checkbridge, the company ran 2 million email messages through three popular email scanners. None of the tested programs caught all the viruses. The success rate of the scanners varied between 97% and 64%. Checkbridge’s CEO also states that in many cases, using two scanners at the same time does not guarantee constant identification of all viruses. Similarly, many computer experts report that using two or three anti-spyware programs usually removes 95% of spyware.
Pillars of security
How can you protect your system and data amid security threats from so many different sources?
Think about it, malware (malicious code) has been around for almost 25 years. Every year, millions of people and businesses lose significant amounts of money due to lost and often irretrievable data. On top of that, some viruses hoard system resources and Internet connections, making it impossible to work or play. And that doesn’t include the frustration and anger that we can’t pinpoint the source of the problem.
One of the very first steps in protecting your computer is to update your operating system (OS). This is critical because operating system vendors such as Microsoft Windows are constantly updating the security features of their products to address potential and actual loopholes.
Second, you must have updated antivirus software running on your system. Be sure to choose from the best on the market today – a few bucks won’t break the bank, but a virus will. Make sure your antivirus software is updated frequently (even daily if necessary) by patching the current engine and database files with the latest cures for new viruses, worms, and trojans. Antivirus software should be able to scan e-mails and files downloaded from the Internet to prevent malware from accessing your system.
Many users use a third component to secure their home and/or computer system – firewall software. A good system prevents unauthorized use of your computer and access from outside sources (such as hackers or hijackers) and provides additional protection against more common Trojans and worms. A firewall alone will not eliminate the virus problem, but when used in conjunction with operating system updates, antivirus software, and information from processlibrary.com, it provides deeper system security and protection.
The fourth component of security is manual intervention. This possibility can be scary for any novice, however, such an intervention will definitely help to combat the Trojans that are not removed by the usual anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.
I’d like to explain two tools that can step in when all else fails – the native Windows Task Manager, which helps you list all the processes running on your computer, and a good online directory that explains what those processes are for and if they’re legitimate. or not. Of course, these tools should be used with caution. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to bring up the Windows Task Manager, which helps you identify most of the processes running on your computer—a built-in feature of the Windows operating system. Go through the processes one by one, then look up the process names in one of the many process libraries available – I use processlibrary.com, but there are many others, including neuber.com, file.net, and bleepingcomputer.com. Anyway, these libraries are information libraries (usually free) with a search function.
With this information, you can immediately identify any new threats that may be infiltrating your system. The definitions help cover the time it takes for preferred antivirus and antispyware software vendors to update their scanners. If you identify it, just look up the process in the processlibrary.com database and you’ll get an exact definition and advice on what to do.
Fight against spyware, adware and other malware
In some cases, it is not so easy to recognize that spyware and related forms of malware are installed on your system.
In other cases, you’ll notice changes in your web browser that you didn’t make almost immediately. These changes include toolbars that you didn’t want to install, different home page settings, and changes to your security settings and favorites list.
Other signs of spyware include pop-up ads unrelated to the website you’re viewing. Many of these ads are usually related to pornography, emoticons, or performance/security optimizers, and they don’t appear like they appear in legitimate ads. Ads may appear even when you are not surfing the Internet. Spyware is not only annoying, but it slows down system performance, increases startup time, disrupts your Internet connection, and can sometimes even cause your system to crash.
Install an anti-spyware software package. There are good ones on the market, and many experts recommend installing two or three, as no single package may be powerful enough to find all the entries and changes made by registry and other spyware. Such malware is installed like any other application on the system, leaving traces of itself in the registry and other places on the system. Anti-spyware works by finding these traces and deleting them.
Also, be careful about what you download from the Internet. Make sure you know the sources you’re downloading things from – and even here you need to be extra careful. For example, not all companies that claim their software contains adware actually offer only adware! There is always the possibility that the program contains hidden spyware. Be sure to read the privacy policies and license agreements. Firewalls should be of great help in the fight against spyware and malware.
New forms of security threats
Malware authors and hackers are always looking for new ways to disrupt the normal operation of your system and, even worse, steal your personal information. Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) is a form of website attack, also known as session riding. According to leading security experts (e.g. Jeremiah Grossman), this form of attack is rare, yet a “sleeping giant”.
So what is the solution? The solution is to try to work hard to minimize security threats by using the right tools, and require that websites you use regularly take a similar approach.
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