Putting an end to myths: how to avoid computer viruses
In 2017, the computer virus "WannaCry" put the world’s biggest companies under siege and made home internet users tremble in fear. It took advantage of a weakness in Windows to make an attack that disabled devices and demanded large sums of money in exchange for their release. The fact, of course, became known all over the planet and threw into question the internet’s security systems
Despite this, there are many occasions when false alarms are created surrounding circulating viruses on the net. It is true that there will always be risk, but one must work hard to dispel the unfounded rumors.
The origin of the computer virus goes back many years, to 1972, when it attacked the operating system Tenex, present in American computers that were being used for the research and teaching. Its name was "Creeper" and was created, without malicious intentions, by an engineer named Bob Thomas. The virus circulated on the Internet always sending out the same message: "I'm the Creeper, catch me if you can."
In order to combat it "Reaper" was created, considered the first antivirus in history. In the 80s the first malicious viruses emerged. Since that moment, hundreds of viruses have emerged, some of them very aggressive. Although it is difficult to decide which has been the worst in history, many experts point to "Chernobyl", a virus created in 1998 that attacked 60 million computers operating on Windows and Millenium. It erased all data from the devices and prevented it from being put into operation.
Classes of viruses
One of the first malicious viruses was "Rabbit", which blocked devices. Then "Elk Cloner", affecting Apple, and finally "Brain", which appeared on IBM computers. From here a list of computer viruses was created:
- Residents. They are in the computer’s memory and alter files as they are selected or closed.
- Direct action. They are installed in the hard drive’s root directory and attack when a program is running.
- Overwriting. We find them in archives. They eliminate contents and replace them with others.
- Located on the desktop.The infamous “clusters”. They change the location of files when we try to access them.
- Boot System Virus. Attacks while the hard disk is running.
Other types of secondary viruses
- Trojans. They take on a more benign appearance, such as a program, causing hackers to take control of your computer in order to steal personal data. The most famous was "Zeus", which affected more than three million devices in the US. 77% of which had updated antivirus software.
- Worms. It is a malware that spreads as we transfer files, causing blockages in the system while wasting bandwidth. The best known was "Morris", which in 1988 affected tens of thousands of computers that had connection to the Internet.
- Spyware. Gathers data from your device and transfers it to another location. One of the most dangerous is the "Skygofree", which affects smartphones and with which hackers can use to gain total control over a phone.
- Adware. Track your computer’s memory to find out your preferences and show you non stop advertisements.
- Browser hijackers. Take control of your browser and direct you to other websites.
- Virus email.They appear when you open an email. The most famous is the virus "I LOVE YOU". In 2000, which in just five hours, infected 10% of computers connected to the Internet and in a moment, caused damages costing up to 10 billion euros.
- Ransomware. They block your device and demanda ransom for its release.
How do we protect ourselves?
The best way to protect ourselves is to install an antivirus, but we have to realize that the system has mechanisms to protect itself. This is the case of Windows Defender or Windows Security. There are also other free antiviruses like Avast or Kaspersky.
They may look like simple programs, but they are very effective in destroying Trojans, worms or spyware. It’s true you have to be aware of new updates. In addition to antivirus, there are other ways to prevent our devices from becoming victims of viruses:
- We especially have to take care of social networks. Never open a file without checking its origin.
- Close the website when the browser tells you are on an unsafe site.
- Do not accept files from unknown contacts
- Create backups of your files periodically
False legends surrounding viruses
- They enter by email. It's one way, but not the only one. They can also enter through the browsing the web, and on social networks...
- My computer is slow... It has a virus! It may have, but your device can slow down for other reasons like lack of system maintenance, or hard drive failures...
- If the screen goes blue, I have a virus. The blue screen is a result of faulty software, not viruses.
- Pornographic pages have viruses. This is less and less true. The pornographic industry now moves a lot of money and has increasingly better security systems.
Threats in 2018
The National Cybersecurity Institute of Spain estimates that last year there were more than 120,000 computer attacks counted in our country, most of them against businesses. Among the most dangerous of 2018 are Confiker, Zeus, Viari... viruses that steal information and bank passwords.