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Riding a Trojan Horse

/ Thursday, 06 December 2012 / Published in Tech

Apparently, my laptop has been riding a Trojan Horse for over a year and seems unable to kick it. Yes, I thought that the Trojan remover on my computer was there to remove viruses – I didn’t think that it was the virus. In fact, didn’t the fellow on the phone who was removing the first virus put the remover there? The technician I spoke with at Staples this time about removing the virus asked where I’d had the virus removal done before. I hadn’t taken it into a place. I had called this company, I told him. I couldn’t remember the name. I’d never heard of them before. Who is familiar with virus removal companies, anyway? It was in Las Vegas, where we’d been living at the time, but I couldn’t say for sure the company was from there. I’d probably found it online.

“Big companies would never do that,” he explained, naming his employing company among the list of examples of big companies that could be trusted. Smaller companies show up overnight, “fix” viruses while installing other viruses that are time sensitive, set like bombs to go off at a later date, and disappear – only to operate again under new names. But why would anybody do this? What has anybody got to gain from installing a virus into somebody’s computer? Malware, such as Trojan, or Trojan Horse, looks like a legitimate file on your computer and it grants access to hackers.

The name “Trojan Horse” is derived from Greek mythology. The story is told in Virgil’s “Aeneid” and in Homer’s “Odyssey.” The Trojan Horse was a wooden horse constructed by the Greeks to hide some of their army in. They gifted it to the Trojans who then pulled the wooden horse into Troy, while the Greeks pretended to sail away. The men hidden in the horse then emerged and opened the gates to the city for the rest of the Greek army to enter. The Greeks then destroyed Troy, and were victorious in ending the ten year Trojan war.

The term Trojan horse has come to mean, metaphorically, “any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or space.” (Wikipedia). Now, malware is labeled with the term “Trojan Horse,” a term surprisingly fitting in spite of originating in the eighth century B.C.

Computer programs are therefore “presented as useful or harmless to induce the user to install and run them.” (Wikipedia). They may appear as legitimate files or even helpful programs, as I was led to believe. Then, once the Trojan Horse has gained access to a computer, it may steal information, including data theft such as passwords and credit card information, and even electronically steal money. A hacker may download or upload files, delete files, and crash the computer. Additionally, a hacker may anonymously view the internet. Obviously, if a person needs to hack into your computer to see something online, they are engaged in illegal activity that would appear as your activity.

These hackers ride their Trojan Horses into your computer system via drive-by downloads. The victim does not realize they are allowing the Trojan Horse in as it is often disguised as a Windows program from your computer, and not the internet. It pops up and says there’s a threat, and the only way to get rid of the threat, or the pop up, is to click – but once you click, you have given the Trojan Horse access. Another way it happens is through online video games and internet applications that are designed to attack targeted computers.

The best thing to do if you see a pop up is to not touch it. Instead, immediately press the power button to turn your computer off. This may not stop the Trojan Horse, but the sooner your computer is off, the less time it is given to infiltrate. Once you turn your computer off using the power button rather than clicking to turn it off, take it in to a real person in a reputable business to deal with the Trojan Horse – and hopefully salvage your computer.

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