Welcome back to all our readers. In this week’s exciting and fun-filled edition of The Weekly Geek we are going to continue on the adventure of a lifetime where we search out new life, explore new civilizations and discover the malicious side of the internet and how to protect your computer from the evils of the universe.
This week we are going to cover Trojans. A Trojan, which is properly called a Trojan Horse is a program that appears useful or is hidden in a “useful” program that, when activated, installs a backdoor to allow others (hackers) access to your computer. Normally a Trojan will turn your computer into a Zombie and have it attack someone else’s computer (just like a zombie in the movies); however, the Trojan can just open the doors to allow others to watch what you do or even worse to steal personal information like bank account and social security information.
The Greeks used a pretty horse to get into Troy after 10 years of trying the hard way. The people of Troy (Trojans) thought “Wow, our enemies left us a nice gift and decided to leave, isn’t that swell of them” and promptly brought the “gift” right into the middle of town. The soldiers in the horse did not attack the city but opened up the doors from the inside allowing the Greek army free access into Troy.
A computer Trojan operates in exactly the same way. Hackers got tired of trying to break into your computer with brute force so they have created a sneaky way to get in. Shareware sites or Peer-to-peer sites have “stuff” that you might want. Usually this is pirated software that you are supposed to buy but instead just take from someone willing to “share” it. Many of the items listed are full copies of software programs or songs. The problem arises when a person with poor morals (like one who would take a program without paying for it) decides to do something “bad” (as if stealing is not bad enough). These people will add a file into a perfectly usable program or give their file the name of a song that is popular. The unsuspecting “victim” downloads the file and attempts to use the program or play the song. The Trojan is then activated. It promptly attacks your firewall (the guards at the gate) and disables it. Then it sends a signal back to the original hacker that it is open for attack or to be exploited for information or to become a Zombie.
Trojans as a rule of thumb are not self replicating and are only introduced into a computer by the end user downloading it from somewhere. The infected computer rarely knows it is infected unless someone else notifies them.
Infections are common among KaZaa, Morphius, Gnutella and Freenet users. My advice is do not get involved in “high risk” activities and avoid these sites.
If you are infected there are several methods to get rid of Trojans. The most dramatic is to completely format and reinstall your computer. Anti-virus programs are now adding definitions that look for some Trojans but they are far from thorough, so update your anti-virus program and run a check of your system. Spyware removal programs can find a majority of the infections but not all (AVG Anti-Malware is one and the “new and improved” Ad-Aware 2007 is another). Anti-Trojan programs are appearing and Trojan Hunter (www.misec.net) is one I am currently using but a search on Google for “anti trojan software” came up with 389,000 hits. Check out different programs and reviews to find which anti-Trojan program best suits your needs. A great deterrent to Trojans is a Hardware and Software firewall which we went over recently (Zone Alarm Pro is easy to use and does a very good job).
Well, that covers this fun filled edition of The Weekly Geek. Tune in to this same place and same time next week for the further adventures of “That’s my computer and I’m gonna fix it!”