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What's a Rootkit?


I had to deal with a particularly nasty virus this month, it was a rootkit.

When installed on a computer, a rootkit provides remote access to resources, files and system information without the owners knowledge. Rootkits are very difficult to detect and remove, sometimes even requiring the hard drive to be wiped of all traces of data and the complete re-installation of Windows.

A rootkit can be installed by clicking on an infected graphic or program and can also be installed by surfing the Web. A popup window might state, for example, that a program is necessary to view the site correctly, disguising a rootkit as a legitimate plugin. Even a "no thanks" button can be programmed to install the unwanted software.

I was lucky, I managed to remove all traces of the infection, but it took five full system scans by three different antivirus and rootkit cleaner programs, I then had to spend a fair amount of time correcting all the damage done to the system. Thankfully all the customers data was undamaged and the PC has now been returned to him.

Please be aware of security warnings which pop up from time to time, either from Microsoft, or your antivirus program. If you weren't expecting a warning popup, take the time to read it and act on the advice, the consequences of ignoring it could be serious.

E-mail Hijack!


Another alarming trend is in the increasing number of people who are having their email accounts hacked.

As the victim you will probably know nothing about this until you receive concerned calls from people in your contacts list, stating that they have received a strange email from you.

Upon investigation I have discovered accounts being fraudulently accessed from Japan and Nigeria. The hackers are likely to be sending out the strange emails to your entire list of contacts and then monitoring the account for replies. The reason behind this is simple, email accounts are sold in their millions and if the hacker can prove that the email addresses are active, they will fetch a much higher price.

My message to you is clear, avoid the use of simple passwords, a five or six letter password all lower case with no numbers or other characters is simply not secure enough. If you can't think of any way to make a memorable secure password, try this: do a search on Google for: "how to create a secure password you can remember". Third in the list of results is an excellent article called "How to Create a Password You Can Remember" on it makes very interesting reading and offers plenty of ideas. Give it a go and you are not only protecting your private emails, you are protecting the email addresses of your friends and family too.

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