It has become increasingly common for spam to contain malicious programs or software that can be harmful to both your computer. The purpose of these small, malicious is to perform unauthorized, usually harmful, actions, when they self-install into your computer system, and infect your programs and files. They are commonly spread by e-mail, in the form of cleverly disguised attachments that trick you into clicking on them.
The most common of these programs are: Viruses, Trojan Horses, Malware and Adware. Knowing what they are and how they work will help you better protect yourself from malicious spam.
A is a computer program that is specifically created to replicate itself and to infect a computer system without permission or even knowledge of the user. Viruses come in several varieties including:
The Boot Sector Virus
This virus will infect the root-most part of your computer hard drive, called the boot sector. This is what is used to start up your computer.
This type virus can prevent your computer from starting and may even force a hard drive format, causing you to lose all of the information on your computer in one fell swoop.
The Program Virus
This is an executable file. It becomes active when the program it has infected is run. When it is activated, it will infect other programs on your hard drive, disabling them.
The Macro Virus
The third type of virus specifically targets documents such as Microsoft word. It is activated when the infected document it has infected is run. One action it may perform, for example, is to erase dates in your documents as well as other areas of the computer.
The term “malware” is short for malicious software. It is a type of program that propagates on your hard drive and can create untold problems when it does so. Malware may install a program that you did not want, or ask for. When it does so, it will use up many of your computer’s system resources, effectively slowing it to a near standstill.
Much like its Greek namesake, the Trojan horse program is a seemingly harmless and innocuous application or file, but it contains harmful, malicious code and, when installed, can wreak havoc on your computer system. This program often runs undetected, giving the hacker access to your computer system and, for example, your personal information such as saved passwords and bank account numbers. The hacker is also able to display messages on your computer screen.
While not necessarily malware, but adware can be used for malicious purposes. Adware goes above and beyond what is reasonable advertising. It is adware, in fact what has given a bad name to some otherwise incredible free software that may actually be very beneficial to you.
It generates popups or other annoying advertising that can in fact freeze or lock your computer. In many cases, the adware is difficult if not impossible for the regular user to remove, disable or even detect.
In addition to displaying ads for the original advertiser, adware may log your whereabouts on the internet and send user information back to the spammy ad company about your computer use without asking for your permission to do so.
Spam is not always the most harmful thing you will find in your inbox; it is the attachments that come with spam that can really devastate your computer system. It is crucial that you do not open attachments in unsolicited email.