Keyloggers come in hardware form, but are usually software viruses that secretly record everything you type. Ransomware holds your computer and its data hostage until you pay. Rootkits allow hackers to remote-control your computer, and are often used to introduce other types of malware.
Related article: Advanced Threats Target Your Computer (The Northwest Herald)
So why should you fear these threats?
- They bypass your security.
- They steal your money and your identity.
- They force your computer to infect still more computers.
- They turn your computer into a spam-generating cog in the hackers’ profit-driven machine.
In the tech industry we say you’re rooted or pwned (like owned with a p – “powned”). In other words, the hackers own you. They own your accounts, your passwords, your address, your finances… your life.
Related Tech Tips article: What To Do If You Get A Computer Virus
Fake Antivirus Software
In particular, watch out for fake software scams. I’ve spoken of these before. Fake antivirus software tricks you into installing it, then bypasses your protections and invites its malware friends in to play. It’s devilishly hard to get rid of, as anyone who’s been infected can tell you. Usually you’re looking at a reinstall. And the darn stuff actually makes you pay to be infected! Talk about a scam.
This is why you don’t want to do a web search for “Windows antivirus” and start clicking on random links – many of them are poisoned results that lead you straight to the lookalike fakes.
Rootkits And Remote Admin
Concerning rootkits – those backdoor programs that allow hackers remote control of your computer – I’d like to point out that these are not the same as the built-in remote admin tools on your computer. A rootkit, by its nature, is designed to be stealthy. Remote admin programs are supposed to be used to maintain computers for legitimate purposes (say, if you are performing tech support on machines in a remote office). But it can also be exploited just like a rootkit if a hacker convinces you to turn it on. Check out this article on telephone tech support scams for an example.
Fortunately, you can make it easier to recover your computer if you do have to reinstall it – by imaging the drive while it’s still clean. This, combined with regular backups of your everyday data, will let you restore your computer quickly.
Windows Drive Imagers
- Microsoft: Windows 7: Back Up Your Programs, System Settings, And Files
- Lifehacker: The Best Disk Cloning App For Windows
Mac Drive Imagers
- Apple: Mac OS X v10.5, v10.6: How to back up and restore your files
- Lifehacker: The Best Disk Cloning App For Mac
Have you encountered keyloggers, ransomware, or rootkits? Share in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net