A new – and rather chilling – word has entered the lexicon of online security, ransomware, and it’s thought to be threatening Skype users.
A worm known as Dorkbot uses the Skype instant messaging system to install malicious software on users’ machines.
The message Skype users have been asked to look out for is: “lol is this your new profile pic”. Clicking on the link in the message will download Trojan malware.
A Trojan gives the bad guys control of your computer, who can recruit it to a botnet. Botnets of controlled machines can be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes by hackers. At the comparatively benign end of the scale your machine may be used to send out email spam or take part in an attempt to overload a website to cause it to crash.
Hackers with access to your machine and key logging software will be well on the way to breaking your passwords. And, one of the first things most botnet computers will do is to send out the bait message to everyone in your address book trying to snag more victims.
A relatively recent addition to the malware arsenal is the ransomware attacks, which according to McAfee have increased in number by 50% between the first and second quarters of this year.
In a world of sometimes bewildering acronyms, there’s something reassuringly old-fashioned and simple about ransomware. The attackers take control of your machine and demand a payment to return it you with your valuable data untouched. Some versions threaten to make public any questionable browsing history or illegal downloads.
Skype, which is now owned by Microsoft, has said that its users should update to the latest version and that it is taking the issue very seriously. The advice that you should keep your antivirus software fully up to date is always worth repeating too.
Defeating the Dorkbot worm is, to those in the know, relatively simple, but for the average home user or humble desk jockey it’s a frightening experience and one that is sure to cost infected businesses, at the very least, time.
One of the beauties of Skype is that it’s free and, as a result, has millions of users. This makes it as attractive to mischievous or criminal users as any of the other burgeoning social networks. Companies who use these networks would do well to make sure their employees are fully up to date on how best to avoid clicking bad links.
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