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I would like to take the opportunity to thank Matthew Malcolm for his support on Tuesday in helping Harbourside Market resolve a major connectivity issue we were experiencing with the Motorola PDA’s and the commercial wireless installation. Please pass on my thanks to Matthew as his support was very much appreciated.

Merv Williams

Harbourside Market

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What is the Purpose of Malware?


An example of a scareware pop up. Clicking anything on this popup will install further malware on your machine.
Since the mid 1980’s personal computer users have been plagued with Malware. In the early days most (if not all) were viruses, which explains why modern day Malware are stereotypically labeled as viruses.

Early versions of Malware quite often originated from programming code written for a positive intention. However, eventually the “evil doers” (also known as ‘hackers’) manipulated this code and used it for darker purposes. Many of the early viruses were written as pranks, or as a means for programmers to showcase their abilities, much like graffiti on a wall. Periodically, creators were even naïve to the potential havoc their creation could or did impose.

Nowadays Malware has become so much more than just annoying programmers’ experiments. Since the explosive world wide use of broadband internet, the potential to make money with Malware is almost limitless. Many organisations (including crime syndicates) have realised this and are seizing the opportunity while the majority of end users are oblivious to the risk. The payloads that are executed by much of todays’ Malware can be quite sinister.

Examples of the variety of techniques used are:

Key Loggers – These are programs designed to track the keys pressed on a keyboard without the user’s knowledge. Malicious uses for this include password capturing and information retrieval. For example - text written in an email is recorded and the user’s writing style can then be mimicked to impersonate the author.

Spyware – This is used to collect personal information about the end user without their knowledge, such as credit card numbers, email addresses and web surfing habits for marketing purposes. Some side effects of spyware infection can be a changed homepage address, slowed internet performance, pop-up advertisements and a redirection of visited websites.

Adware – This is typically installed unwittingly by the end-user and is a common component of free software such as file sharing applications. A brief mention of it will be hidden within the end-user license agreement.  Although it does officially warn the user of its presence, it rarely informs of its impact. Like spyware, Adware collects information about the user which can be used for targeted advertisements in the form of banners and pop ups.

Scareware – This is a misleading form of Popup Adware which falsely notifies the user of harmful threats it has ‘found’ on their computer. It then entices the user to click a link to resolve the issue (this link usually installs further adware, spyware etc.) A recent example of this threat is Antivirus 2009.

Botnets – These are an army of compromised computers that are covertly under control by the Botnet operator. The combined resources of twenty thousand or more infected machines create a super computer, which can then be used for a variety of exploitive purposes. The operator can then rent out the services of the Botnet to underground figures to facilitate mischief.  Examples of this include mass email spamming, denial-of-service attacks to bring down entire websites, or pay-per-click fraud. Crime syndicates have been known to use a Botnet for the theft of personal and financial information from corporations. The corruptive uses for Botnets are extensive and the nature of their design makes them almost impossible to defend against or police.

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