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					Malicious Software


   Mike Willey


 Professor Cooper

  March 31, 2011
                                            Malicious Software 1

I. Malicious software

      A. How hackers infect personal computers

        1. Maleware

        2. Worms

        3. Trojan horses

        4. Viruses

        5. Phishing

        6. Pharming

        7. Spoofing

        8. Spyware

      B. Reasons hackers infect computers

        1. Challenge

        2. Money

        3. Political

      C. Defending against malicious software

        1. Antivirus programs

        2. Passwords

II.   Summary
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     For people who own a computer, the idea of being infected

with a computer virus is both dreaded and hated. Early signs of

damage appear the moment the computer starts doing strange

things such as slowing down or not opening some files and

programs. Not only is an infected computer annoying, it can also

lead to a waste of precious time, effort, and money. If left

unchecked, it could destroy many things, from important files

and documents to the computer unit itself. This paper is about

how hackers infect computers, why they do it, and how to defend

against malicious attacks.

     Hackers can infect computers in many ways. The most common

infections include maleware, worms, Trojan horses, viruses,

phishing, pharming, spoofing, and spyware. Each steals

information from personal computers, but in different ways.

     Malware stands for malicious software, which means its

purpose is to cause harm within a computer unit. “Malware is

software that will get into your system or your computer and

maybe set off a series of things like Trojan horses, worms, and

viruses” (Hacker X). It has the ability to monitor a person’s

activity, bombard them with pop-up ads, and make their computer

virtually impossible to use (Baratz).
                                                 Malicious Software 3

     A computer worm is a software program that is designed to copy

itself automatically from one computer to another, without human

interaction. Unlike a computer virus, they do not attach themselves to

other files or programs. They infect a node, which is a collection of

servers. The servers connect many people’s computers to the node and

that is how the worm spreads (Hacker X). Once a worm gets into a

computer unit it can erase programs or information. The worm consumes

a lot of system memory, which causes the computer to become slow and

it may even stop it from responding. The biggest danger with a worm

is its capability to replicate itself. Instead of sending out a

single worm, it sends out hundreds or thousands.

     A Trojan horse is a disguised software program. The term

comes from the Greek story of the Trojan War. Commonly people

will download a Trojan horse disguised as a useful program or

even a program advertised to get rid of malicious software.

Unlike worms or viruses, a Trojan horse does not replicate or

reproduce. A Trojan horse deals damage by deleting files and

destroying information on computer systems. Also, they are known

to open up computers to malicious users, allowing confidential

or personal information to be compromised (Beal).

     Computer viruses are small software programs that are

designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere

with computer operation. They are most commonly spread through
                                             Malicious Software 4

attachments in e-mail messages. Many viruses do nothing more

than display a message or make sounds just for the sake of being

annoying. But, there can be several symptoms due to viruses,

such as computers running slower than usual, restarting on their

own, displaying unusual error messages, not responding, or

freezing frequently (Microsoft).

    Phishing occurs when the thief sends out an email posing as

a trustworthy source. This legitimate-looking email is an

attempt to gather personal and financial information from

recipients. The email will often contain a link or direct people

to a website asking for updated personal information, such as

passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account

numbers that the legitimate organization already has


    Similar to phishing, pharming is another form of online

fraud. Pharmers use the same fake websites to create online

scams, but are more difficult to detect in many ways because

they do not rely on the victim to click on a fake link. Pharming

instead compromises host files and then converts URLs (Uniform

Resource Locator) into the code needed to access websites. Then,

when they type in a website address, they are redirected to a

fake website (Norton).
                                             Malicious Software 5

     Spoofing is the act of sending an email to a recipient, or

a group of recipients, by disguising the sender's identification

and making it look like it came from someone else. This is

basically meant to fool the recipient into opening the email,

possibly resulting in opening a dangerous virus.

     Spyware is computer software that obtains information from

a user's computer without the user's knowledge or consent,

usually for advertising purposes. Just like a Trojan horse,

spyware is downloaded without actually knowing it. Because

spyware takes up a lot of bandwidth it can cause the computer to

slow down or crash. Spyware is also capable of tracking

keystrokes and browsing the hard drive. Other kinds of spyware

can change your web browser’s homepage or add things not needed

or wanted (Microsoft).

     Just as there are a variety of ways to infect computers,

hackers have a variety of reasons for doing so. “True hackers

simply want the challenge of getting the information by phishing

or breaking into a system and 99.9% of the time that's as far as

it's going to go” (Hacker X). Often, the reason is the challenge

of getting into someone’s personal computer. It is not

necessarily about being malicious or obtaining money. Hackers

like the challenge of creating a virus or similar malicious
                                             Malicious Software 6

software to have the best virus and to beat antivirus companies.

(As well as testing it on unsuspecting prey.)

    Of course there are people that do it for financial

reasons. They use personal information to buy and sell for

profit. Some may use key logging that allows them to track what

keys are pressed. Using this technique they can get a hold of

credit card numbers and passwords. Hackers can also use ads to

trick people into paying for items that they will not actually


    Sometimes malicious software is created for the purpose of

making a statement. Hackers may want to interfere with

governmental or other public service website operations. The

hacker’s motivation might be to make political or value

statements related to disagreements they have with those

websites in some shape or form.

    Just as there are ways to cause harm, there are ways to

defend against it. Refrain from opening emails, especially

attachments, from suspicious unknown senders. Using strong

passwords and keeping them secret. And protect the safety of

files with valuable information by using antivirus programs that

have a variety of features, such as firewalls, safe search, and

pop up blockers.
                                             Malicious Software 7

    There is a great variety of antivirus programs such as AVG

Antivirus, Norton, and McAfee. These programs protect from

hackers, phishing scams, adware and malware that come through

email or IM. AVG even scans outbound email to make sure people

don’t accidentally pass a virus along to others. And of course

the software protects from other forms of malware, including

worms, key loggers, and Trojans.

    Strong passwords are at least 14 characters long and

include a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Don't

share passwords with anyone. The same password should not be

used on all sites, because if it is stolen, all the information

it protects is at risk. And to be extra safe create different

passwords for the router and the wireless key of your wireless

connection at home.

    In summary, hackers can cause malicious damage to personal

computers for reasons such as challenge and greed. To protect

personal computers from malicious software, avoid opening

emails, especially attachments, from suspicious unknown senders.

And protect the safety of files with valuable information by

using antivirus programs that have a variety of features, such

as firewalls, safe search, and pop up blockers.
                                             Malicious Software 8


Baratz, Adam. "Malware: What It Is and How to Prevent It." Ars

    Technica. 11 Nov. 2004. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.


Beal, Vangie. "The Difference Between a Virus, Worm and Trojan

    Horse -" Webopedia: Online Computer

    Dictionary for Computer and Internet Terms and Definitions.

    29 June 2010. Web. 01 Mar. 2011.



Hacker X. "Computer Security And Malicious Software (Viruses,

    Hackers & Spam)." Videojug - Get Good At Life. The World’s

    Best How to Videos plus Free Expert Advice and Tutorials.
    Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Microsoft. "Spyware | Prevent Spyware | Unwanted Software |
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    Microsoft Security." Microsoft Security. Web. 26 Jan. 2011.


Norton. "Pharming - Online Fraud | Cybercrime." Spyware Blockers

    - Virus Protection | Norton. Web. 26 Jan. 2011.


Webopedia. "What Is Phishing? - A Word Definition From the

    Webopedia Computer Dictionary." Webopedia: Online Computer

    Dictionary for Computer and Internet Terms and Definitions.

    Web. 01 Mar. 2011.

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