I decided to write about this today because one of our clients was a victim of this particular piece of malware. ‘BackDoor Agent’ is a malicious program that has affected around 500,000 people, worldwide. While that number is particularly low compared to many other viruses and malware, this one deserves special mention because it gives hackers the ability to remotely access your computer system.
Once the Hackers have access to your computer system they can transmit information, modify files and install other software that is likely unwanted. These types of programs are called a ‘Trojan Horse’. If you know anything about Greek mythology or maybe you have seen the movie Troy, you likely know the general premise behind the Trojan Horse. In Greek mythology, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, hid men within it. The Greeks as a manner of subterfuge got into their boats and sailed away, leaving the Trojan Horse behind. The leaders of Troy thinking they have won, hauled the Trojan Horse inside the walls of Troy, where the armed men inside waited until night fall to attack.
In a similar way, Trojan Horse malware, are sent to you, usually through email (but not always), the computer user unsuspectingly opens the email with the attachment thinking something important has just arrive. However, they have just invited inside the firewall of their computer a Trojan Horse. These Trojan Horse’s sometime carry relatively harmless pieces of malware and sometime, they contain malware of a much greater threat. The greatest indicators of a Trojan Horse on your computer will be the degradation in computer performance and the appearance of unwanted programs that you don’t recall downloading.
If you think you are the victim of a Trojan Horse or more specifically a BackDoor Agent, it is crucial that you get the malicious application off your computer immediately – if you are not comfortable doing this yourself, please bring your computer in to us at GMF Computers and we will remove any viruses or malware present and make sure your computer is up to date with the latest virus definitions and windows updates.
Let’s admit it. We don’t do as good of a job as we should keeping our computers (and technology in general) maintained and while you might think it doesn’t really matter, or perhaps it is inconvenient, a properly maintained computer helps ensure it lives well beyond its typical life expectancy. And sure there are exception to this where either you got a lemon and it died well before it should have or you have a computer that just doesn’t want to die – but this are exceptions and not the rule.
Cleaning and maintaining your computer means both the physical machine and the virtual computer itself. Dust impact can cause many problems inside the computer, for example, if there is not enough air flow and the computer begins to overheat it can cause serious damage to the components. Not maintaining the virtual computer can cause a whole host of problems you would rather avoid.
Scanning your computer is a no brainer, and yet sometime we simply forget to do it (I am no exception to this and I work in the industry). Most Anti-virus programs can be configured to run scans at predetermined times, once a month, once a week or whenever you really want it to. But these often times get missed, for example if your computer is shut down during the allotted time. Additionally, these scan are usually quick scans of the computer system which are not as thorough. That is why it is important to open your anti-virus program and run a ‘Full Scan’ at least once in a while – I would argue you should do this at least once a week.
Applications are seemingly harmless programs that sit on your computer. Some of them you use and some of them get automatically downloaded with other software you downloaded and other you downloaded but don’t use any more. The problem with applications or any type of software is that they a prone to security failures and holes. This is not intentional (in most cases) but hackers and programs are good and exploiting holes in software. That is why it is so important to one, remove unwanted or unnecessary programs from your computer and two keep your applications up to date, because these updates often come with important security patches that help fix these security flaws.
Your hard drive, I am begging you, literally on my hands and knees begging you to back up your data. Have you ever seen a grown man cry like a baby? As you all know, your hard drive is where all your data is stored, from application data to your personal data. What you might not know is that hard drives are incredibly finicky and temperamental creatures and if not properly cared for they will bite you. In some case you might get away with a minor flesh wound in other cases a limb. Okay, okay, enough with being dramatic.
Over time the data on your hard drive can become fragmented, data stored is not always stored in contiguous blocks which cause pieces of your data to become separated from the pack. Your computer in all likelihood can find those fragments but I would expect there to be some degradation in performance and wear and tear on the drive itself (they don’t live forever). Again, it is important to uninstall programs that are not frequently used so they are not taking up space on your hard drive. It is also important to clean up your temporary files and any files that are unnecessary. For example, sometime when you uninstall a program there are residual files that are left behind. Always a good idea to keep your downloads folder cleaned as well so you are not using up unnecessary space.
Do backup your data. This isn’t so much maintenance protocol but a keep your personal data safe protocol. Hard drives will stop working and if you don’t have your data backed up there are no guarantees that it can be retrieved. There are tools out there that will read your hard drive and give you some important information, for example, how many hours are on it, what the temperature is and if there are any bad sectors. This will help you determine if you need to replace your hard drive or not.
Quick side note: if you do decide to replace your hard drive, I highly recommend a SSD (Solid State Hard drive). They are significantly more stable and faster.
Windows, much like other pieces of software on your computer are prone to security flaws. As with other applications it is important to install Windows Updates, this will help protect your from any bugs within windows itself and also help protect your from any security flaws.
Computer maintenance is key, not only can it help protect you but it can increase the life of your computer. Some of these things you can do yourself – and I highly recommend that you do. However, if you want a complete top to bottom cleaning come in and see us at GMF Computers, we will clean your computer of any viruses and malware, do all your updates to windows and other software, clean out your temporary files, junk files, unnecessary files, clean your registry and do a dusting of your physical computer. Plus, we will test your hard drive and let you know its condition.