The possibilities of online security threats

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More often than not when I share a link with my buddies on IM, they are bound to ask this question:” Is this a virus?”. For Vietnamese, virus infections via IM have become such a nightmare that they are all too cautious to accept a hot girl pic shared over the Internet. But can they really keep these security threats off their computer?

In early December, a widespread virus codenamed “Koobface” made its way into Facebook and caused disruptions to the digital life of many people. TechCrunch wrote:

The Koobface messages carry subject lines like “You look so funny on our new video” or something similar, and contain a link to a video site that appears to contain a movie clip. If the user tries to watch it, a message appears saying that he or she needs the latest version of Flash Player in order to play the clip. This tricks users into downloading a file carrying the malware. An earlier version of the virus targeted MySpace users earlier this year but was quickly eliminated after new security measures were put in place.

What helps the viruses spread so fast is that “it comes from your trusted friends”, so you will blindly click on the link without knowing it. This leads to a few possible scenarios that you may get infected thanks to your friends.

Twitter

So instead of writing a virus for Facebook, I will write one for Twitter. Here’s how the virus works:

  1. It makes its way into your PC.
  2. It steals your Twitter password.
  3. It posts a 140-character message that contains the virus/lures you into getting infected.
  4. Repeat 1-2-3

Here’s why it works:

  1. You almost always click on a link shared via Twitter, do you?
  2. The link is shorted by services like Bit.ly/Tinyurl/etc., which makes it impossible for you to figure out it is a virus.
  3. Most of us on Twitter are computer addicted –> a well-crafted message can be tempting.

It is certainly not difficult to protect yourself against this malicious software if: your computer is up to date + you don’t use IE + you have good security tools.

Platform applications

Yeb, applications are shifting away from the PC to online platforms such as Facebook and the promising Yahoo! Application Platform, which in essence turns your Facebook/Yahoo account into a cyber PC.

So instead of writing a virus that makes its way into your PC, what if I write a malicious application that, once you install it into your profile, it spreads. Here’s how it may work:

  1. You install an application named: “Decorate your Christmas Tree” or something fancy like that.
  2. Once you install it, you are tempted to recommend it to your friends, they are tempted to spread it to their other friends, and so on.
  3. Via status updates, the virus application goes viral.

There are two possible threats:

1. It goes directly into your PC and does whatever it is written to do: destroy your hard disk, steal your data, etc.

2. Since integration between social networks and what not are increasingly common, once your Facebook Profile is compromised, you lose everything online.

For the first, the same security measures apply. For the second, we might need an online security app? :)

Oh by the way, I’m not a coder so I won’t be able to write anything. No worries :P

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