Three Threats That May Be Robbing Your Data Right Now

Last time we discussed the three threats that are the stuff of nightmares. Threats that are well designed and very profitable for hacking organizations. This time I want to focus on threats that are so common, users have more or less acclimated to them, making them prevalent threats.

The first is likely the most common of all, adware. Adware is software that displays advertising banners or pop-ups on your computer when using an application. Adware can be benign, such as the case for those found in mobile apps, as they are what fund the development of the apps that we use for free. They become a problem when the adware:

- installs itself on your computer without your consent

- installs itself in multiple applications and displays advertising when using them

- hijacks your web browser in order to display more ads

- gathers data on your web browsing without your consent and sends it to others via the Internet

- is designed to be difficult to uninstall

Adware will have a significant effect on your computer’s performance, noticeably slowing it down. You will also notice that your internet connection is slower as well, as the adware will be constantly pulling down ads. This is one of the most common threats we find on unprotected systems, bar none. Unfortunately, it is so common that we do not get called in until it has become so unbearable that the computer is at a near standstill for performance. Users have come to accept adware and plug in toolbars as the norm, allowing these to proliferate freely. A good anti-virus software will keep these at bay.

The next threat likely in your wake right now is data leakage. Data leakage is the unauthorized exposure of information. What does that look mean? It means that sensitive information like identities of the workforce, clientele or any proprietary information has been shared in some form. A user may post and share the information without fully understanding the consequences and risk of doing so. There are a number of ways to prevent data leakage, which include encryption, access control, written policies and, of course, training.

Lastly, the threat you may be housing and “feeding” every day, the zombie. A zombie is an infected computer that is remotely controlled by a hacker. If you have a system on your network that no one has used in a while, maybe because it was just so slow (and probably infected), yet it’s still plugged in and connected, it could be a zombie. Once a hacker has control of the computer remotely via the internet, and made it into a zombie, it can be used to send spam, launch denial-of-service attacks, and infect other systems. Best and quickest way to deter the zombies, that doesn’t involve a barbed wire bat? Just unplug all unused systems and disconnect them from the network. No juice, no zombie.

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