The Dark Side of Connectivity

As we rely on computers and connectivity for an increasing number of reasons and connect a substantial number of devices to the Internet, our lives get exposed and vulnerable to a greater extent. There are various ways to damage or exploit one’s computer, mobile or other connected devices.

The best known threat of all is the viruses. With harmful intentions, viruses are tiny computer programs that are not intended to be run by the device owner. Automatically and without users’ permission, they copy and run themselves and they always have another additional motive that would range from harmless message spreading to crashing the entire system. There is a never-ending race between the security companies and the virus developers. In a vicious circle, virus developers create an unknown virus, while security companies write a protection against it as soon as the virus is out. Some viruses are extremely simple and easy to attain protection while some others are elaborately written with high technology coding techniques. There is even an advanced virus called Mytob that is not only spreads itself to the computer, but also alters the virus protection programs on the computer to disguise itself as legitimate. Another interesting virus called GPCoder encodes all the files in the computer, asks for money to reveal the encryption password. This virus is the first blackmailer in the history of the computer viruses that is now categorized as RansomWare.

Similar to viruses; worms, malicious macros and trojans somehow copy themselves to the systems and forward themselves to the other victims in the same network. Worms specifically utilize the mailing systems or networks, attaining the addresses in the vicinity, they copy or send themselves to the every system in the environment. In some cases, they basically spread messages, other times they execute harmful actions such as bringing the entirety of the network to its knees. Macros spread themselves with Office programs or similar macro-using software. For example, one can receive a spreadsheet from a known source and open to process it, all of a sudden a macro runs automatically and perform an action that is not intended in the first place. With users’ insecure download habits, trojans are easy to distribute. There are a significant number of computer users who incautiously open, receive or download email messages from other sources. Some of these files are considered to be Trojans, the user thinks it is just an amusing video or his/her favorite mp3 song, however along with this intended content, these files also have vicious content that would harm the computer, this is called malware. Just as the historical Trojan horse, thought to be a gift in reality there were soldiers inside it. In order to collect private information such as account numbers and passwords, trojans are opening the necessary ports to allow external connections. These types of trojans are also called Spyware. Taking control of the network, spywares are redirecting victims to some not pleasant addresses instantaneously, for example, the user would click to open a newspaper site in contrary the spyware redirects to the user to a porn site.

Another widely common security threat is the email spams. An immense number of unwanted email messages are distributed to users’ mailboxes by the second. These types of unwanted emails are called spams. Number of people or companies exercise spam as a naive marketing tool. Supposing, if they send enough number of emails, they would have a chance to let people acknowledge about their company and products and they will have a market share as an outcome. Over the time, it becomes annoying to receive unrelated emails, even the ones that would be beneficial treated as junk mails. Furthermore, some spam emails contain malware to harm the hosting systems. Another email using scheme is called phishing. This term comes from fishing, it is exactly same as throwing a line into the sea and wait for someone to get hooked. Relying on people’s ignorance, phishers send vast number of email messages and expect someone to fall for it. In their messages, they either claim they are from a bank or they are in need of the target’s financial assistance to transfer a vast amount of money through the bank account. Sometimes, they even claim the lottery winner and ask for filling out a form which usually contains personal and financial data to claim the prize. Phishing is also called on-line identity theft, their primary motive is to steal as much personal and financial information as possible.

With the rise of number connected machines and increase our dependencies to these devices, the stakes are getting higher. Not only are these threats affecting our computers, network systems and mobile devices, other online devices such as smart TVs, smart home systems and other connected devices that are collectively called Internet of Things (IoT) would be adversely affected. Of course, using anti-virus programs, firewalls or having strong passwords would facilitate to reduce the risks; however, no matter how much money is invested and how top of the line security systems are installed, eventually, it always comes to the people. The users should always be aware of these types of threats, maintain their systems up-to-date, utilize the passwords cautiously, not submit personal, security or financial data through mails or Internet no matter how authentic and reliable the sources may appear.


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