Everyone who uses a computer to access the internet knows that the information that they hold on their devices is at risk from potential attack from hackers and other fraudulent users. But how many of us understand what these potential dangers are?
Here’s a description of what three of the main threats for computer users that antivirus software will protect you from.
Viruses and worms
A virus is a program that can infect your computer and will replicate once it is on your hard drive. It can corrupt or delete files and alter settings on a computer. In the worst examples, viruses can make a computer unusable.
Worms also self-replicate but don’t attach themselves to other programs in the same way as viruses. Mass-mailing worms are common and will self-replicate using the email network to do so. They can scan a computer and use any email addresses they find to replicate to those addresses. Worms can also appear to have been sent from another email – spoofing the ‘from’ address so that people will be more likely to open it.
Spyware and key logging
Software that displays advertising is called adware, and this is used by many free applications and utilities to raise money. Your computer usage can be tracked by adware to target advertising that suits you.
More sinister is spyware which sometimes comes onto your computer when you click on a pop-up box to move it off your screen or will come attached to seemingly legitimate software you choose to download. Spyware follows your use of the computer and the internet. It can also be used to harvest personal information and may install a key logger on your computer. This keeps track of all the keystrokes you make, putting all your security, passcodes and privacy at risk.
Phishing comes in the form of websites or emails are sent by individuals who are trying to access personal and financial details, including credit card numbers, bank account numbers, passwords and PIN codes. Phishing emails are cleverly designed with realistic banking logos and convincing text to persuade you that they are legitimate. All computer users need to be aware of the potential risk of phishing emails and not open email attachments or click through on any links contained within an email unless they are sure they know the sender.
Of course, all these dangers are equally present for people using smartphones, so mobile antivirus software is a must for anyone accessing the internet with their mobile phone.