In the second installment of our Stay Safe Series, today’s Volusion blog post discusses malicious code. Malicious code, also known as malware, includes spyware, computer viruses, trojan horses and worms. You’ll learn about each of these online security threats and how to protect your online business from unnecessary data breaches.
Earlier this week, we started our Stay Safe Series by discussing the dangers of phishing to your online business. Today, we further extend the conversation by covering the concept of malicious code. The idea is pretty self-explanatory, and the word “malicious” is the epitome of appropriate for the most frequently used tools by fraudsters. Malicious code, better known as “malware,” is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent.
Back in 2004 I received my very first laptop. I was absolutely thrilled (even though it didn’t have a wireless connection) to have the freedom to move about the world with an 8 pound computer on my back. After five years of use, my beloved electronic friend operated at a turtle’s pace. Once I took it into the notebook shop, the experts identified a countless number of viruses, spyware and trojan horses – all pieces of malicious code designed to ruin my computing pleasure.
I was sad to learn that I’m not alone in facing this problem. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) reports that malware is the number one online security threat to small businesses. A joint NCSA and Symantec study also indicates that malware is the number one security concern for small business owners. And to make things worse, attacks against small businesses are on the rise due to known vulnerabilities in networks.
So let’s arm ourselves with the power of knowledge and quickly define the primary legs of malware:
- Spyware: malicious software that tracks your Internet usage habits and reports it back to a database. This information is typically fed to online advertising businesses to target ads and gather overall behavioral data. Spyware can be particularly dangerous in that it can track your username and passwords, which are gold mines for fraudsters.
- Trojan horses: Remember the story of how the Greeks took Troy by hiding a slew of soldiers into a horse meant to be a “gift?” Same story here. In malware terms, a trojan horse is a delivery mechanism for malware – they can’t spread by themselves but are hidden while installing stronger threats (i.e. spyware, worms, viruses).
- Computer viruses: This is probably the most well-known security threat, and one of the scariest. The term encompasses all sorts of malware, but is technically defined as a self-replicating computer program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. Computer viruses can wreak havoc on your computer and others as it spreads, typically through email and shared attachments.
- Worms: Computer worms are very, very similar to viruses. The main difference is that worms are more powerful – they don’t require human action to spread. Instead, they multiply automatically through a network.
So what do you do to protect yourself, your sensitive data and your customers? Take a look at this video (the music drives me bonkers, but it has some great info):
To sum up, make sure you do and don’t do the following:
- DO be extra careful when opening or downloading files, particularly from unknown email addresses and peer-to-peer file sharing networks.
- DON’T trust every message that comes onto your computer. Much like phishing, malware is often installed by tricking you into downloading something you don’t need.
- DO install anti-virus software on your computer. I’m never one for advocating spending additional cash, but this is something that can really help in the long run.
Pretty simple stuff, right? One encouraging fact is that the majority of malware attacks are heading overseas, particularly in new-to-internet countries like China and India. But just like the rest of the online world, malware creators are developing new execution tactics. Keep these nuggets of knowledge in mind and you’re far better prepared to stay safe out there.
More safety facts and tips to come!
Happy (and safe) Selling!
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate
What are your thoughts on malware? How do you keep yourself safe from these bugs? Any advice for others? Ever been a victim of these security issues? What do you think the future of this problem holds? Share your thoughts – together we can stay safe!