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What is a Trojan Horse Virus? - Definition, Examples & Removal Options

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  • 0:00 What Is A Trojan Horse Attack?
  • 1:17 How Devices Get Infected
  • 2:39 Avoiding Infection
  • 3:53 Recovering From An Attack
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kent Beckert

Kent is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has a Master's degree in Technical Management.

During this lesson, we will describe a Trojan horse and why it is used. We will also learn the identification of several potential targets. Finally, we will discuss some preventative actions to help avoid future Trojan horse attacks.

What is a Trojan Horse Attack?

Imagine that when you opened your E-mail this morning, there was a message from 'Lynda' (a person you don't know) with a subject line of: 'I've been trying to get ahold of you.' There was no message text, just a hyperlink saying: 'they laughed when I said I was working online. . . Then;' presenting a perfect Trojan horse scenario. Do you click on the hyperlink out of curiosity or is it better to delete it?

Daily, thousands of computer users unintentionally ingest and launch a Trojan horse virus and infect their home computers and workplace networks. Trojan horse viruses and malicious code are used to attack mobile platforms as well as personal computers. For instance, your mobile phone can be infected by downloading a simple application from Google Play, Apple, or similar sources.

To define a Trojan horse, it's important first to describe what a Trojan horse conveys, which is a virus or malware. A virus is usually self-replicating, whereas malware is non-replicating, but both are intended to cause damage to a computer and its resources. A Trojan horse is a coded program which masks the existence of a virus or malware by making its appearance look normal while containing malicious utilities transparent to the user; utilities that execute unnoticed in the background until it is too late.

How Devices Get Infected

Think of a nice, ripe orange. It looks very appetizing and you are hungry. Once you peel the orange and take your first bite, you find out the fruit is bitter and nothing at all like you had expected. A Trojan horse is not much different than the orange; instead of a nice, sweet orange, we receive dangerous and destructive code. Needless to say, even though the packaging is inviting, the contents can lead to lost files and a damaged computer.

Trojan horse, associated words
Trojan horse - associated words

As software programs, Trojan horses can appear as a game, a mobile application, a utility program, or a textual hyperlink. Each intends to enhance interest and to entice an unsuspecting user to download the disguised malware or virus. Once downloaded and installed, the infection is free to collect personal information, destroy files and records, and eventually render your computer or network unusable.

Cybercriminals purposely create malware and virus packages with the intention of either obtaining personal information or destroying computer records and files. By hiding the malicious code and making it appear innocent, many individuals will overlook the possibility of a Trojan horse and download the package without thinking. Keep in mind that Trojan horses can also infect Android and other mobile devices by creating a Trojan horse masquerading as a popular new game such as Angry Birds or an application such as the 'flashlight' app.

Avoiding Infection

A Trojan horse is very real and can cause catastrophic damages to personal computers and corporate networks. Cybercriminals are becoming inventive in ways of disguising a harmful virus or malicious code. As long as we connect to the Internet, few platforms or devices are safe. Think about it, personal computers, Apple platforms, Android tablets, and even smartphones are no longer safe and are subject to infections caused by a Trojan horse.

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