‘Dodgy’ sites not the only source of viruses

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

I have covered computer viruses before, but I see enough infected computers and speak to enough people with genuine concerns, that I feel I need to speak talk about it again.

The question I get asked the most is, “How do they get on there?”

It’s usually followed up by a qualifying statement of one sort or another explaining they have not been doing anything ‘dodgy.’ The chances are this is true!

So how do they get on there? The criminals - and let’s be brutally honest, because that is what they are - that created computer viruses have many and varied ways and means of infecting your machine.

Learning to protect yourself is as much about knowing how to spot the signs as it is having up to date anti virus software.

Spam or junk e-mail is often sent en masse with malicious intent. Messages are often poorly written or just plain gibberish. It’s the attached virus that the sender cares about, not the message. All the message does is try its best to get past your junk mail filters.

Suspect executables (files that end in .exe) will often be hidden inside zip files (they end in .zip).

The file names are usually along the lines of tax.doc.exe or something like that. Whatever you do, do not open them!

Another tactic employed by e-mail spammers, is to send an HTML message, which is basically a web page. The links embedded within pretend to be one thing, but once you click on them you are in for a world of pain.

These can be difficult to spot, but if in doubt, hover the mouse over the link and look at the status bar at the bottom of the screen. It will tell you the web address it links to. If it is suspect, do not click on it.

Another common way to unwittingly download a virus is from a website. Now most people automatically assume that means a ‘dodgy’ website, perhaps with pornographic content. While this is sadly often the case, it is not limited to ‘dodgy’ websites.

Often legitimate websites get hacked and malicious code is added, meaning nothing can be truly safe.

Back in January Yahoo even had to admit they were hosting adverts that was serving malicious content to anyone visiting their website.

That had massive implications that could have infected hundreds of thousands of machines.

What I am trying to say is, if your machine does get infected, it is not your fault.

Make sure your anti virus software is current and be vigilant.

Alan Stainer