The common name of all security risks is usually ‘a virus’. We all know that it’s important to protect our PCs from those scary viruses that can take over our data and break the device. However, even though the stories of the dangerous impact of viruses are not overrated, the mistake here is to ignore all other threats.
Even though viruses are the most common security risk, it’s not the only one. Actually, hackers keep coming up with new types of attacks so, in a foreseeable future, viruses might give up the spot of the most common threat.
10 Common Types of Security Risks
Type #1 – Virus
If we started this guide talking about viruses, let’s take a deeper look. Just like their biological predecessors, computer viruses have one main goal – infiltrate themselves from one PC to another.
Viruses can be masked in malicious webpages, emails, attachments, download files. Considering the number of opened pages and downloads, there is no wonder that viruses still remain the most diffused security threat.
Fighting viruses is done in two stages. Firstly, the antivirus has to spot the threat, secondly, remove it. Let’s see all popular strategies for handling this and describe their differences. We took the functionality of Avast free antivirus as an example – but these features are considered to be standard.
- Smart Scan: Antivirus analyzes the entire storage on a fairly superficial level. The tool does not have a goal to check each file – that would take quite a while. Instead, the antivirus identifies files that look suspiciously and analyzes them. By the end of the scan, the user is presented with the list of detected performance issues, malware software, and network threats.
- Full Virus Scan: this is an in-depth viral detection. The tool checks each file in your storage, making sure there are no viruses or rootkits (we’ll get to these ones soon).
- Targeted Scan: pick particular folders or drives.
- Boot-Time Scan: The antivirus checks the system on a turned-off PC. It’s an efficient way of detecting threats that are deeply rooted in the operating system. When the device is not running, the malware has no possibility for counterattacks.
- Custom scans need to be set up manually in a ‘Settings’ panel.
- Explorer Scan is targeting particular files directly from the desktop. Users don’t even have to open an antivirus program.
Type #2 – Rogue security software
Capitalizing on users’ fear of viruses, hackers found a way to target safety-conscious people. This threat will make you believe that there must be a dangerous virus on your computer and it has to be removed at any cost. The software can even mention something about urgent deletion or dangerous consequences. However, if you had no experience with rogue security threats, recognizing this deceit can be very confusing.
The program will propose the installation of improved security settings or start installing malicious updates. A user, naturally, thinks that this is meant to protect his system even better – while in fact, the exact opposite is happening.
By leading you to believe in a fake virus, the hackers are distracting from an actual threat. Even antiviruses can be fooled by this deception. Such software can be masked as malvertising, scareware, pornography detection – any kind of alert that would scare users and motivate the installation.
The countermeasure is simple: do not install any additional security measures that are not coming from your antivirus or official operating system update packages.
Type #3 – Trojan horse
As the name tells us, Trojan horse is a piece of infected code that infiltrates a legitimate program and conceals its presence until the extensive damage is done. These threats are most often caught in emails or with USB sticks. It’s enough to visit an infected page or open a malicious email – and your computer will be infected.
The worst part is, the Trojan horse can be transmitted to you by someone trusted. This person, however, usually has no idea that the email or attachment is infected. This way, one user can unwillingly infect dozens of devices.
When a Trojan horse penetrates into your system, it will remember your personal data, may take control or a webcam and microphone, steal sensitive data, and rewrite files.
The most efficient way to counterattack this is to reinstall your Windows. When the operating system is completely refreshed, Trojan horses are deleted. Usually, antiviruses do a good job in removing superficial horses, however, a lot of them tend to be hidden deep in the system’s functionality. If that’s the case, reinstalling the operating system is your safest bet.
Type #4 – Spyware and adware
The adware takes the appearance of pop-up notifications and web advertising. If you a frequent file downloader, you have definitely encountered annoying tabs that tend to open without your interactions. You pressed one button – suddenly, two or three tabs pop up, and none of them was the one that you expected.
These tabs can be the source of adware and spyware. They will send an unwanted download or place a tracker to your browser. Sometimes, there will be an unsolicited pop-up with ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ questions. Thinking that you are approving a download, you press yes – congratulations, you have just opted to give your data away. Technically, you even provided hackers with consent. It’s a fully legal matter now.
Spyware works in the same way only it does not receive your consent. This practice is absolutely illegal but since when do hackers care about laws? Once the spyware is installed, it will scour for your personal and financial data, copy sensitive media files and hijack your camera.
The easiest and the most proven version against these threats is a mere caution. Monitor carefully each opened tab and pop-up notifications. Also, enable the additional level of contra-spyware protection in your antivirus’ settings.
Type #5 – Computer Worms
Computer worms are similar to regular viruses in their habits of fast self-replication and the scope of infecting as many devices as possible in the process. The worm gains access to the user’s list of contacts and sends itself to all these contacts.
However, unlike viruses and trojans, this type of threat is not malicious by designs. The functional role of worms is simply to spread and infiltrate, without necessarily doing harm.
However, don’t let this thought calm you down too much. It’s still luck, one time your worm will be friendly, while on another day you can find an aggressive one.
Interestingly, they are not always designed to cause harm; there are worms that are made just to spread. Transmission of worms is also often done by exploiting software vulnerabilities.
Check your antivirus settings and make sure that your default scanning mode accounts for worm detections. Worms can hide each other, automatically stopping and restarting which makes their detection tricky. That’s why only in-depth antivirus scanning can fully assure your safety.
We’ve reviewed the most common types of security threats, their forms of disguise and the ways of minimizing and completely deleting the risks. Now you are able to recognize possible security issues and know exactly which measures should be taken.