A blunt look at the damage that can be caused when a computer infection takes hold with examples from recent news.
Computer bugs can take many forms, some are harmless while others are devastating, some need coaxing and provocation while others can crop up during business as usual. In last week’s post I described how bugs occur as a reason to patch your computer. Here I highlight the damage that bugs can cause as a persuader to patch your computer in case you’re not convinced.
I’d like to point out that while a patched computer is typically more secure than an unpatched computer, it’s probably not 100% secure; there are likely to be many more bugs waiting to be discovered and exploited.
More realistically an exploited bug can lead to a keylogger listening for usernames, passwords or credit card numbers and then silently sending its bounty off to the bad guys. A bug can open a channel that would allow the bad guys to remotely watch or take control of your computer. A bug can be a gateway to allow the bad guys to install rogue programs on your computer that might hold your files to ransom or advertise software to clean up an infection (that the bad guys control of course).
So what can we do to avoid these exploits? Well following the common advice will help to avoid attacks from idiots and amateurs but the clever bad guys could take complete control of your computer and you’d never even know about it until they want you to. The problem is that you have to avoid every possible attack scenario but the bad guys need only find one to win.
In effect, you would have to avoid using pretty much every part of your computer and the web in order to be sure of avoiding attacks, which is not really feasible. Instead, if you keep your computer up to date with patches then you will at least make it more difficult for the bad guys to get a foot hold, and that’s a good start.