Trojan Viruses

In computer-ease the term “Trojan Horse” means one thing, a “malicious, security-breaking program that is disguised as something benign.” This type of hacking has been dubbed Trojan Horse because the virus tends to hide in something safe and then unleashes itself on your computer when you least expect it. On a computer, you may download a fun screensaver not realizing that hidden inside is a small file prepared to attack.

Trojans come in many shapes and sizes. Some create annoying, unending pop-up advertisements; some get into your e-mail and send out spam, some claim to clean viruses off your computer, and others may actually implant in your computer and track your keystrokes in an attempt to steal a credit card number or password. The basic rule is, just as you would be wary of anyone coming to your door or calling you on the phone to sell you something, you should be extra cautious of things you come across on the internet, especially when they do not have a reputable company name behind them. You should also take caution when opening attachments in e-mail. You may know the person that sent it to you, but who sent it to them? And who sent it to that person?

Trojans can be spread in the guise of literally ANYTHING people find on the internet: a free game, movie, song, etc. They get to victims computers via downloads from an unreputable web site, via peer-to-peer file exchange using instant messaging, or just carelessly opening an e-mail attachment.

So, how do you protect yourself?

Most Trojans take advantage of security flaws in the popular Microsoft Internet Explorer Browser software your computer uses to access the Internet. So to deny the gangs that path, customers must ensure they have the latest security patches downloaded from your browser website. These patches are free to download.

Your computer should also be equipped with up-to-date virus software and firewalls, such as Norton or McAfee. Up-to-date is the key word here. New viruses are created daily, so expect virus software updates just as often. With virus protection you may be notified if a file you are downloading has a virus attached. With a firewall, it would notify you if a program on your computer is trying to access the internet. The two work hand-in-hand.

You should also obtain spyware software. Adware is a free spyware program that catches most of the Trojans out there. If you couple it with another spyware program like Spysweeper or Spybot, your computer will have extra protection to catch Trojans that one program might not. Again, be sure to keep your spyware up-to-date.

Finally, take precautions when browsing the internet by following these guidelines:
  • NEVER download blindly from people or sites which you aren’t 100% sure about.
  • ALWAYS be sure what the file is before opening, even if it comes from a friend. Many trojans will automatically try to spread themselves to friends in an email address book. When in doubt, ask the sender first, and scan the attachment with a fully updated anti-virus program.
  • Beware of hidden file extensions! Windows by default hides the last extension of a file, so that innocuous-looking “britney.jpg” might really be “britney.jpg.exe” – an executable Trojan! To reduce the chances of being tricked, unhide those pesky extensions. Instructions on how to unhide file extensions can easily be found by typing “unhide window file extensions” into Google.
  • NEVER use features in your programs that automatically ‘get’ or ‘preview’ files. Those features may seem convenient, but they let anybody send you anything which is extremely reckless. Disable the preview mode in Outlook and other email programs.

How do you get rid of Trojan viruses?

There are several options to look at when attempting to rid your computer of Trojans.
  • Clean Re-installation: This is the only sure way to completely get rid of a Trojan or virus. However, it also means that you must be sure all of your personal files are backed up on disk or CD and that you have all of the disks available to reinstall software programs. If you are sure you want to go this route, you can either do it yourself or you can pay a professional.
  • Anti-Virus Software: Some anti-virus programs can handle most of the well known Trojans, but none are truly perfect which is why you should not rely on anti-virus programs alone for protection. You can download free trials of most anti-virus software and they usually come with an annual fee. When you are done, make sure you’ve updated Windows with all security patches which can be downloaded free at http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/en/default.asp.
  • Anti-Trojan Programs: These programs specialize in Trojans instead of general viruses. You can purchase programs online or at a local computer store. Again, when you are done, make sure you’ve updated Windows with all security patches.