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Why Your Computer is Infected
Over the weekend, someone asked us for roughly the millionth time, “why do virus writers want my computer?” For those outside the computer and security industry, this is quite an interesting and perplexing question. What DO people want with my computer? Typically, a virus writer is not perusing your vacation photos or updating your Facebook page with what they had for dinner the night before.
Instead, they infect your computer with one of the following goals in mind:
1. Steal Information – They will look through your browsing history, saved passwords, Word documents, and any other interesting documents or files for usernames and passwords. They might also look for credit card numbers or other sensitive information. They will also actively collect information the next time you type in your webmail password or online banking information. The immediate goal for this approach is drain your bank accounts or run up your credit cards. They will also infiltrate your email and Facebook accounts to further spread the virus.
If the hacker manages to obtain your email password, he can also email all your friends informing them that you are stranded in a foreign country and need your friends to wire you thousands of dollars to make it home again. Please do not send money if you receive a request like this – unless you legitimately know your friend is overseas and you have another way of confirming the legitimacy of the need!
2. Rent out Your Computer to a Spammer – Since enough people do not to save credit card information right on the desktop, a virus writer can use your computer to send out spam in the meantime. As broadband continues to penetrate the various home markets around the wolrd, fast computers with fast Internet become an extremely lucrative prize for virus writers. A computer that can send 20,000 spam emails an hour will generate more revenue than a computer that can send only 500.
Once a virus writer obtains enough computers, he can then rent out your computer to a spammer if he is not sending the spam himself. The spammer then uses your computer to send as many emails as possible. For example, a recent spammer group was sending an estimated 18 BILLION spam emails a day using 120,000 infected computers! If even 0.1% of all recipients click on the link, the spammers stand to get money from 18 million people!
3. Pay Per Click Schemes – Another common reason for infecting a computer revolves around online advertisements. Businesses pay for an advertisement featured in the advertising network of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, or another company. Other businesses are paid by those advertising networks to host ads on their websites. For example, if Aegis IT pays for an advertisement on Google AdWords, that ad might appear on The Tech Center website. When a visitor to The Tech Center website clicks on the Aegis IT advertisement and is taken to the Aegis IT website, Aegis IT pays Google a fixed amount and The Tech Center receives a commission from Google.
This otherwise simple process generates an excellent source of revenue for less scrupulous people. A virus writer might sign up for AdWords, host advertisements on a website, then use his infected botnet to “click” on the advertisement links on his website. Google sees the clicks, the advertising company receives the fake web traffic, and the virus writer gets paid for the link referrals. However, the advertiser never receives anything in return, as all the clicks are fake!
These are the common reasons for writing a virus and infecting computers. There are other reasons, such as Russian hackers we encountered that did nothing more than install a video game server! The game itself is completely harmless, but running the game is a complete waste of unauthorized system resources. Any other reasons will depend on the actual virus writer.Tags: Infection, virus