The Trojan Horse: Protecting Against the “Friendly” Virus

Like the Greeks hiding in their Trojan horse to sneak inside of Troy, the modern day Trojan virus uses its innocent appearance to sneak inside your computer and gain control. While not technically a virus, Trojans are computer programs that operate by appearing as something you would like, such as an email attachment or free software. When you download the file, you are effectively opening your computer’s gates, giving full computer access to the program.

Once they have access to your computer, Trojans record your key strokes and actions, sending them back to the source for use and placing you at risk for fraud or identity theft. These programs are especially dangerous to businesses that maintain large amounts of sensitive data, like financial records and customer credit card information.

The good news is that with a few simple steps, you can greatly minimize your computer’s risk of infection. These include:

Don’t open attachments or download files unless you know and trust the source. This includes downloading files or programs from the Internet or from Peer-to-Peer Networks (P2P). Common in small to mid-sized businesses that do not have a dedicated server, P2P networks connects computers and allows files to be shared among them. If you see a file with any of the following file extensions be extra cautious: .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, .cmd. These file types are considered executable files are more likely to contain a Trojan.

Update your software regularly. These updates are important because they include patches to known security holes in your computer’s operating system, browser or programs. To make it easy on yourself, enable your computer’s automatic updates feature. That way, you will be alerted whenever an update needs to be installed.

Use a firewall. Such a simple step can prevent a world of problems. In this technology-driven era, it is impossible to know and trust the source of every single attachment. Having a strong firewall, combined with the backup of updated computer software, provides you with a strong defense again firewalls, preventing most Trojans from gaining access to your computer.

Back up all files regularly. When you back up your files, ensure they are stored somewhere other than on your computer. These files become very important in the event that your computer becomes infected with a Trojan horse, giving you a way to restore key files, so that you don’t end up in a bind starting over from scratch.