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Trojan Horses

Trojan Horses

Avoid Trojan horses that bring unwanted “gifts” to your computer.

According to the Microsoft security intelligence report, Trojan horses are now the single biggest threat to computer security.
A form of malware, Trojan Horses are destructive computer programs that show up in your e-mail or on a web site and look like safe, even helpful programs. Once launched, these programs can send data to external users or delete files on your system.

Worse than just damaging data, Trojan Horses can actually be tools of terrorists. For example, a sophisticated Trojan Horse was released on the world by a Chinese cyber-spying outfit called GhostNet. “GhostNet infected at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries,” reported unnamed sources within NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. “Those infected included the Dalai Lama, international houses of finance, and advanced military support, targeting and missile facilities within several [formerly Eastern Bloc] countries, the UK, and the United States.”

The problem has the attention of the White House. President Obama included $4.5 billion in stimulus funds for the national electric grid when evidence revealed the presence of Trojan Horses capable of destroying the American electrical infrastructure. Increased spending appears imminent—as terrorist infiltrations grow—especially while sensitive business and government information remains so vulnerable.

Trojan Horses like those released by GhostNet work behind the scenes on your computer. Typically, you’ll receive an e-mail message that carries the Trojan Horse in an attachment or web link. If you open the attachment or follow the link, the malicious code executes, installing itself on your computer along with a seemingly benign file. The infected document will often open normally, leaving you clueless that anything happened. The most damaging attacks allow full, real-time control of the infected computer. Once the virus has control of your PC, nothing is off-limits. Whoever runs the virus now has control of your machine and everything in it.

Trojan Horses are effective because they come from reputable-sounding sources with names like campaigns@freetibet.org and heros@savetheorphans.net. Worse yet, once a Trojan Horse succeeds on one machine, the chances of future success increase significantly. Many Trojan Horse programs can use content stolen from previously-infected machines to enhance their appearance of legitimacy.

How do you save your computer—and our organization—from the danger posed by Trojan Horses? Your mom told you not to talk to strangers. The same advice works in cyberspace: don’t open, forward, reply, or handle e-mails from unknown senders. Your hard drive, organization, and country will all thank you.

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