Once a computer virus has been isolated and named, its likely that your virus protection software will be updated to protect you from it. Its the new viruses that havent yet been identified that typically cause the most trouble.
In a few cases, however, known viruses continue to infect computers around the world. Here we look at some of the viruses and attacks that have made the news so far in 2014.
Unfortunately, people still havent learned to be skeptical when it comes to e-mail with suspect attachments. The Goner virus spreads by forwarding itself via the victims mail client to everyone in that persons contact list. It sends itself as an e-mail with subject line Hi and the body text When I saw this screen saver, I immediately thought about you. I am in a harry (sic), I promise you will love it. The attachment is titled gone.scr.
If you open the attachment, it forwards the same e-mail to all of your contacts and then attempts to disable your virus protection software, leaving you open to other possible attacks.
Like many other viruses, the Cryptolocker virus typically conceals itself in e-mail attachments. However, you can also contract it by clicking a flashing advertisement for one of many scam virus protection services claiming to have found x number of infections on your computer.
Rather than securing files, this malicious piece of programming encrypts files with an unknown algorithm and then charges the original owner of the data to release it back. So essentially, it holds the victims computer files hostage. Even paying the ransom, which is usually demanded in the form of the crypto-currency Bitcoin, doesnt ensure that the data will be returned to the owners control.
This virus has been around for some time. In 2014, it reared its ugly head once more this year after being unseen for years.
Avast, an antivirus service based in Prague, had its online forums hacked, the irony of which was not lost on the 400,000 users whose details were compromised.
The Avast CEO made it clear in a blog post on the companys website that users sensitive data remained secure. However, its certainly worth being concerned that every users e-mail address and hashed password fell into hacker hands. If a determined hacker cracks the algorithm used to protect the passwords, users who use the same password across several services may have bigger problems to deal with than their e-mail addresses being forward to spammers.
A lesson to be learned from this attack is to make sure to use different passwords wherever possible. Consider using a service like LastPass, 1Password or KeePass for greater password security.
In 2014, Russian electronic spy agency known as Dragonfly compromised upwards of 1,000 key infrastructures around the world, endangering gas pipelines, wind turbines, aviation systems and power plants. It particularly targeted power plants in the United States and Europe.
According to Symantec, which is the company that owns Norton antivirus, the state-sponsored attackers created a virus called the Energetic Bear. This virus operates similarly to the infamous Stuxnet virus, which was designed and used by US and Israeli intelligence agencies to remotely shut down fuel lines in Iran.
Although average home and business computer users dont have to worry about protecting themselves from viruses that target infrastructure at national and international levels, the fact that such viruses exist is frightening.
The best you can do to protect your data from viruses is to use antivirus software on any device you use that connects to the internet, and ensure that you keep this software updated with the latest virus definitions.