Saturday, March 13, 2004
THE TROJAN HORSE
Innocence and Experience
Looking back over my life, I can see what extraordinary changes have occurred in the world over half a century. I have been in awe of some incredible inventions that have made a positive impact on our world.
But my enthusiasm for what progress has been made, since those seemingly innocent days of my childhood , is tempered with dismay at the way mankind still has, secreted within its ranks, sociopath miscreants who choose to operate with malicious, sometimes deadly intent , for their own perverse personal or political gratification and so often abusing the very tools which have been developed to help make the world a better place.
In the days of my innocence, my early teens , I so enjoyed Homer's epic stories The Illiad and The Odyssey fired my imagination ; the story of the Trojan Horse particularly stuck in my mind .
What , I thought, a clever deception of the Greek armies , appearing to retreat and apparently leaving a peace offering for the Trojan's in the form of a giant wooden effigy of a horse. The wooden horse , of course, was hollow and contained a small Greek hit Squad of elite soldiers. Wrongly thinking it was a gift of appeasement, the Trojans were duped into hauling the huge wooden horse into their city which had previously proved impregnable to the Greek armies. When the Trojans had drunk themselves into an almighty stupor, in celebrating what they thought was a great victory, the Greeks came out of the horse and wreaked havoc.
On the basis of "all's fair in love and war", this deception was understandable and simply a clever military strategy to achieve a long awaited victory over a specific, stubborn enemy and we are in no doubt as to what single purpose the Wooden Horse was meant to achieve back then.
My innocent childhood definition of a "Trojan Horse" has had to be extended more recently as a new meaning of it has entered our language . "Trojan horse" has come to mean a destructive computer program that masquerades as a benign application. (One of the most insidious types of Trojan horse was a program that claimed to rid your computer of viruses but instead introduced new viruses to your computer.)
Conveniently, today I have a heavy cold and that means , I suppose, I have contracted a virus but of course, these days , the word "virus", too, has a new and equally sinister alternative definition. It refers to a program or piece of code that is loaded onto your computer ( most often through malicious E mail ) without your knowledge and runs against your wishes. Computer Viruses can replicate themselves, that is make a copy of itself over and over again. A simple computer Virus will quickly use all available memory and bring the system to a halt. A more dangerous type of Virus is one capable of transmitting itself across networks and bypassing security systems.
And then we have the Worm. A worm, once simply a useful wriggly creature that aerated garden soil and was great food for garden birds, is now , alternatively, also a special type of virus that can replicate itself and use memory, but cannot attach itself to other programs
The point here is that, if I am unlucky enough to have picked up a flu virus, it is just one of those natural things and nobody is at fault. But computer Viruses, Trojan Horses and Worms are all manmade. They are the work of perverse individuals or groups of individuals who deliberately set out to cause damage and harm. The mission of such people seems akin to the malicious action of that awful man, convicted recently , who knowing he had the Aids virus, deliberately set out to infect as many women as he could.
To deliberately set out to infect someone or their machines is not normal behaviour. I find it very hard to understand the motivation of people who spend their time in the closet , dreaming up and then sending out , malicious computer program Viruses with the deliberate intention of invading law abiding poeple's lives and wrecking their computer systems .
Some of this activity has , in the past had a specific target and purpose , for example, an aggrieved ex-company employee seeking revenge on the company that fired him or her. But what about those perverse individuals or groups of them who target randomly, with no apparent motivation other than to demonstrate to the internet community just how very clever they are? Such people are extremely strange , it seems to me, and even worse , I'd guess too that they were not all dysfunctional , unhappy people leading unfulfilled lives as you?d expect. They of course try to remain anonymous and that seems part of the buzz for them. "Look at clever me. See what I can do and you can't catch me." They are, it seems to me, getting off on the power they feel it gives them. I am convinced , that intellectual arrogance is behind all this perverse , anti-social activity and I strongly suspect it is chiefly a male thing.
As one who makes extensive use of the Internet and E mail, the last few months has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of "Spam" I have been receiving , and just lately, I have experienced an exceptional volume of Spam E mails that contain attachments with concealed viruses. ( I have a program that alerts me when it finds a virus incoming .)
In the past , I have reported "Spammers" to various Internet Service Providers , but the process is very time consuming and you feel too, that you are howling at the moon as the stuff just keeps coming. But, still, from time to time, I make abuse reports about unwelcome Spam I get , in the vain hope that this might lead to one or two of these on-line parasites getting their accounts deactivated. (I usually delete most of it as I can recognise it from the headers and I never open unexpected attachments.)
So, imagine my dismay when, today, I received a letter from my ISP . I had sent their Acceptable Use Team , a Spam report last week and , instead of an E mail reply ,I got a letter instead. To my horror , the account they traced back to , as the source of the e mail with virus attached that I had complained about, was my own. As they said, it appears that I had , innocently "reported on myself". The letter acknowledged that I might not be aware that my PC was transmitting a virus. Fortunately, the letter also gave me full instructions and links so that I could scan my computer and kill any viruses that had infected my files. ( As it happened, yesterday, I ran my "AVG" virus check on my laptop because it has been very slow of late, and it found a thousand infected files and I thought the program had destroyed the infections. But when I ran Symantec's free virus scan, it came up with the same number of virus infections and identified them as the W32.Netsky.B@mm worm /virus. They also provided a freely downloadable program to root out the virus from the infected files.
Here's the final irony. Guilty by proxy. The authors of these malicious virus programs are very hard to trace. When they are caught, it seems to me, they get off very lightly compared to all the damage they do and the extraordinary cost of that damage. The more sinister thing is that, when they pass on the virus, as it multiplies and infects, it becomes increasing hard to trace the source adding , no doubt to their author's sense of malicious hand-rubbing glee .
In my case I have ended up, like many others I am sure , innocently helping to spread the infection . My ISP has threatened to suspend or terminate my account should they get a report of any further incidents of viruses that originated from my computer as they have a duty to contain the spread of any virus. They referred me to the User Policy agreement I signed which has the catchall statement "You must not use the service, to knowingly , or unknowingly, cause to be transmitted, Worms, Trojans or Viruses."
What to do if you suspect you have a virus in your PC ?
If, like me, you suddenly find that your computer is slowing awfully and you are getting strange error messages mid-program, chances are that you may have a virus.
Maybe you do not have a Fire wall or anti-virus program and that leaves you wide open to attack via the internet. You can download a very good virus detection program freely from
Scroll down the page till you see this icon.
When you click on it you will find a red "start" button under the image headed Virus Detection .
The program will scan through your PC and pick up all files that are infected and then it will identify what virus is detected. It takes a few minutes to run the scan . The program will then give you a report naming any known virus that it has found. Follow the on screen instructions and they will take you to a page where you can freely download a specific program that will search out and destroy that virus/those viruses in any infected files in your computer. It makes sense, with these perverse people around, to get decent firewall and anti-virus software installed for your own peace of mind and to limit the damage these people do.
FOOTNOTEA friend just pointed out that simply having an anti-virus program on your computer doesn't mean you are immune from attacks. There are new viruses coming up all the time and thus anti-virus software needs to be regularly updated as a matter of routine to ensure protection from previously unknown viruses. Better programs automatically send updates and run virus checks for you when these updates are made.
johncoxon 6:23 PM - [Link] - Comments ()