Understanding online security – Part 1

The struggle

These days, it’s almost becoming the norm to read or hear about another round of infection hitting thousands and thousands of PCs around the world. These online security attacks are not just aimed at individuals, but increasingly at a hugely varied number of targets. From hospitals, schools and governments, to SME’s and enterprises – it seems that nobody is safe and security has become one of the most talked about topics within the IT space.

The Media tell us “no one is safe”, “it’s not a matter of if, but when”, and use jargon that no one really understands such as “crypto-locker”, “malware” and “virus”. Business Owners are left thinking – what does this mean for my business? What are the actual threats? And how do I know if I am infected?

Below is an overview of some of these buzzwords that you probably hear on a regular basis. In the following blog, we will talk about how you can defend your business against some of the threat below.

Malicious computer programs


Viruses are self-replicating programs designed to destroy data and computer systems. Modern prevalence of effective viruses has dropped off recently with more hackers designing crypto-locker type viruses instead.


Malware covers multiple types of threats that range from key loggers that record what you typing to exploits that looks for passwords and tools that change your web browsers default search. An example of this is Conduit web browser toolbar, this malware would change your search engine from Google or Bing to its own search engine to drive ad revenue. Malware is generally less self-replicating than viruses but can often time be just as destructive .


Applications that can come with a machine when it’s manufactured, advertised online and downloaded or bundled with another download. These applications are generally not destructive but are either useless or negatively impact performance and stability of your system. They also ‘suggest’ you pay for the full version to get your machine working better again. A prime example is things like “Driver updaters” or “Free Antivirus solutions”.

Ransomware aka ‘Crypto Locker’

This is the one everyone has been talking about recently and is arguably the most destructive. By the time you notice it’s on the system you’ve already lost half your files. This is a threat that will become more prevalent as hackers realise they can make money directly from this by holding your files to ransom. Crypto locker is distributed the same way as viruses and encrypting any file it has security access to change, usually going after photos and documents.

In summary

Now we know what we are up against. How do we get infected?

These threats can infect through various method but here are some of the most common ones:

  • An email attachment.
  • An exploited/malicious website
  • An unsafe download (torrents, Reallycoolsong.mp3.exe etc.)
  • An infected USB
  • An infected network attached device

In the next article, we’ll look at how we can defend ourselves from such threats so make sure you follow our LinkedIn Company page to keep updated.