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The Infected Computer: Is Your PC Carrying a Hidden Virus?

Is your computer being used as a tool of cyberterrorism without your knowledge? Learn how to protect yourself from Flame and other super-viruses.

At some point, most of us have had run-in with a computer virus. We’ve gone to a website we shouldn’t have or downloaded an attachment from an email, and suddenly our PC is acting funny. The computer is running more slowly, we get annoying pop-up ads or the PC might crash.

These viruses are destructive and can be costly, but the damage they do is often limited. A good virus-removal tool and updating your antivirus program usually fix the problem. Recent viruses have come to light, however, that are far more complex, powerful and sinister, and for which any one of us may be an unsuspecting carrier.

These super-viruses have the capacity to record keystrokes, take screenshots or even listen in on our audio and Skype conversations. All of our data, business and personal, is at risk. PCs that carry the virus may even be involved in cyberterrorism, without their owners’ knowledge.

The Flame Virus and Other Baddies

You might have heard about the Flame virus, the malware that has been attacking computers across the world, particularly in the Middle East. This malware spreads by taking advantage of weaknesses in a PC’s operating system through unprotected networks and USB flash drives. Once on a computer, the virus communicates with its home base, receiving instructions from hackers to steal data and record PC activity.

This virus was able to spread without detection for two years or longer, slipping under the radar of antivirus software and the diligence of IT experts the world over. Even now, computers without malware protection or the latest updates may be harboring the virus.

Although Flame appears to be directed against governments and large corporations and is the work of sophisticated and well funded people, the worry is that such capabilities will soon fall into the hands of the average cyber criminal, putting businesses of all sizes at risk. In fact, it is possible that viruses like Flame are already out there, on our PCs, stealing our data or using our computers as terrorist tools.

Protecting Yourself

Every person who owns a computer should know how important antivirus software is. Such protection, when updated regularly, will keep your business PCs free from most known viruses. The addition of a firewall and data encryption will keep hackers from slipping into your network (many storage solutions and wireless routers include encryption tools as standard features). Now that the characteristics of Flame are known, a simple scan can identify and remove the malware.

The trick, however, is protecting yourself from viruses that have not yet been discovered and that may be lurking out there even now. Staving off these infections will require you to stay on the alert, watching for signs of unusual activity on your computer.

Use your Task Manager to look for unusual processes running in the background or communication with suspicious IP addresses. Monitor data flowing into, out of and through your network. For more about these technical tasks, speak with an expert who will tell you how to watch your network for signs of danger.

Flame and other super-viruses may represent a new threat to the business owner, but you can protect your computers.

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