This Excel malware even forces you to fill out a dreaded CAPTCHA form
Microsoft has identified a new Excel malware campaign that uses a novel technique to bypass traditional antivirus software and other security solutions.According to the firm, cybercriminal syndicate Chimborazo is distributing a rigged Excel document capable of infecting victims with the password-stealing GraceWire trojan. Before the Excel file is downloaded, however, the victim is asked to…
Microsoft has identified a new Excel malware campaign that uses a novel technique to bypass traditional antivirus software and other security solutions.
According to the firm, cybercriminal syndicate Chimborazo is distributing a rigged Excel document capable of infecting victims with the password-stealing GraceWire trojan. Before the Excel file is downloaded, however, the victim is asked to fill out a CAPTCHA form, used in legitimate scenarios to establish whether a user is human or not.
By concealing malware behind a CAPTCHA wall, which in essence requires the user to activate the download manually, hackers are more likely to successfully bypass security systems that scan for automated malware downlo
Malware is a contraction of ‘malicious software’, and is an all-encompassing term for any program designed specifically to attack, damage or compromise a system in some way.Malware only exists to attempt to exploit your device or personal data in some manner, usually for the author’s own gain – say, for example, stealing your online banking…
Malware is a contraction of ‘malicious software’, and is an all-encompassing term for any program designed specifically to attack, damage or compromise a system in some way.
Malware only exists to attempt to exploit your device or personal data in some manner, usually for the author’s own gain – say, for example, stealing your online banking details – but sometimes it effectively represents random acts of virtual violence, such as a virus which just nukes your entire system.
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Strains of malware
Malware is a broad term, so is often employed very generally to cover anything bad happening to your PC in terms of rogue software that exploits your system in some way.
However, there are different subsets of commonly recognized malware, and we’ll now look briefly at the main offenders (there are other variations out there, too).
The virus (which we’ve already mentioned) is one of the most common types of malware. A virus comes embedded in a piece of software or file, and infects the system when that app or file is run. When that happens, what’s called the payload is triggered – in other words, the bad things that happen to your PC (which you may not even notice, as some effects are designed to be stealthy). Then the virus – as its name suggests – can spread itself to other files, and therefore potentially to other PCs (if those files are transferred).
A worm acts in much the same way to spread itself, but is even more dangerous, because it doesn’t need to be ‘triggered’ by the user (via a file being run) – it automatically propagates itself.
A Trojan is another kind of malware which pretends to be a legitimate program (being named, of course, after the famous Trojan horse). In other words, it’s specifically designed to look like a useful app, but will actually wreak malicious havoc on your system when run; a nasty concept indeed.
Ransomware is even nastier, though, and when unleashed on your PC – either via a file, or a website – it locks your machine (and all your files), threatening to delete everything by a certain deadline if you don’t pay a specified ransom online.
How bad is bad?
On the subject of how dangerous malware is, the short answer is very. As we’ve indicated, some types of malware are particularly nasty, like ransomware which effectively locks up your digital life away from you – and even if you pay the ransom demanded, there’s no guarantee the author of the malware will actually let you have your files back. And if you haven’t backed up your data, then you really are in serious trouble (do remember that there’s some great free backup software out there).
However, any type of malware is seriously bad news generally speaking, and can have all sorts of negative effects on your PC, including spying on you (via a webcam perhaps), stealing your online passwords or other personal data, slowing your PC or internet connection down, or indeed just completely destroying all your files.
So, malware isn’t just dangerous – in fact, it can be deadly, at least to your files and system.
Should I never go online again?
The common thread with all these types of malware is that you contract them online, from either an app or file you downloaded, or a website (often via an email link). Obviously, it’s not an option to never go online again just because of what might happen with malware – but rather, it’s a matter of being aware of potential risks and taking simple precautions.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into detail on this, but the basics are that firstly and most importantly, you should use a good antivirus app (there are capable free antivirus products out there, or even Windows Defender is a solid enough proposition now and it comes built-in with Windows 10 by default, so even the terminally lazy don’t have any excuse for not using something).
Secondly, be very careful what you click on. If there’s a link on a social media site which seems suspicious, don’t follow it. If you have any doubts about a link sent to you in an email, or you’re worried about a dodgy-looking email attachment, again – leave it well alone. Be wary of anything that’s labeled as ‘urgent’ or seems to be demanding that you click it, and don’t forget, if you’re not sure about something, you can always check with the sender if the email is genuine or not.
Finally, always download software from an official store (like the Microsoft Store for Windows 10 PCs, for example, or Google Play with Android), or the maker’s website wherever possible. Don’t use any remotely suspicious-looking website or third-party store (at the same time, don’t think that official stores are bulletproof for malware – but they are far less likely to have been compromised).
What about my business?
Malware can be hugely damaging to businesses as well as individuals. Hackers often use malware to try and gain entry into an organisation’s systems or networks, from where they can access valuable data to steal and sell on. Companies can face targeted attacks via malware that can cripple their systems, causing outages that could cause technical and financial damage.
To stay safe, businesses must ensure they have a full security suite offering installed that includes the latest up to date malware protection. This must be updated regularly, as hackers often switch up their tactics to take advantage of the latest threats.
The perceived wisdom is that you should have antivirus software installed on your PC and an app of some kind on your mobile. Or that’s certainly been the case historically – if you don’t, the argument has always been that you’re running some major risks.However, given advancements in operating systems and security in general, is…
The perceived wisdom is that you should have antivirus software installed on your PC and an app of some kind on your mobile. Or that’s certainly been the case historically – if you don’t, the argument has always been that you’re running some major risks.
However, given advancements in operating systems and security in general, is this still true in 2020? Should you definitely be running antivirus software today? Or are there any good reasons why you might not want to?
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Arguments against antivirus
antivirus on Windows 10, but there are arguments against doing so. In some cases they’re not particularly valid ones, at least in our opinion, but they exist nonetheless.
One main pillar of the ‘anti-antivirus mindset’, as it were, is that if you’re sensible and careful enough about what you do online, only visiting legitimate websites, official software stores, and policing the links you click on with a suitable degree of vigilance, you probably won’t encounter any malware anyway.
And therefore the argument is you don’t need to pay for antivirus, and even if you install a third-party free antivirus app, it’s still another program on your system that might slow it down somewhat (some antivirus software can have more of an impact on system performance, and of course free software may also pop up ads and so on).
Another more pressing worry aired in recent times is that some of the antivirus software out there carries a number of vulnerabilities, and these could be a potential avenue of exploitation for an attacker. In other words, the potential irony is that your antivirus software could be an avenue for your machine to be compromised.
That’s a legitimate concern, as we’ve seen in recent times, when for example in March 2020, Avast disabled a major part of its antivirus software which suffered from a dangerous vulnerability that a respected security researcher flagged up.
So, as you can see, there are some gray areas when it comes to answering the question of whether you should run an antivirus. However, there are much stronger reasons as to why you should use an antivirus, which we’ll explore next.
Antivirus for the win
Clearly the most worrying issue raised in the above section is the final point, so it’s worth clarifying that the chances of your antivirus being used as an avenue of attack in some manner are pretty slim. In truth, there are far bigger targets for malicious actors to focus on than any given security app.
We’re talking about gaping holes in operating systems, and much more widely used software like web browsers, which will be far juicier propositions to exploit for hackers and other miscreants.
The thing is, it’s these major targets which are the real pay dirt for malware authors, and an antivirus can defend you against those far more dangerous threats. So really, the good that these apps are doing in that respect far outweighs any potential bad in terms of possible flaws within the security of the antivirus itself. It’s that simple – although also bear in mind that to minimize any risk at all, use one of the best apps out there which are pieces of software that benefit from being tightly and securely coded.
Moving on to consider the potential slowdown that might be visited on your PC by installing an antivirus, the trick here is to check out our antivirus reviews to discover the lean apps which have little impact on system performance – there are some very streamlined products out there (like Norton and Kaspersky, for instance).
As for the argument that being careful about what you download and click on is enough to keep you safe, well, that’s true to a large extent, but here’s the rub: even if you’re clued-up and super-safe, there’s always a slight chance that you might come a cropper if you’re online with absolutely no protection.
Even legitimate big-name websites can unintentionally become vehicles for malware via the adverts they serve, if the advertising networks who they’ve partnered with are compromised (this has happened to some high-profile sites in the past). So it’s a rather dangerous assumption to make that safe surfing habits and other good practices are all you need.
Besides, less tech-savvy users may not be all that confident about knowing how to stay safe online anyway, so would be seriously ill-advised to go without antivirus protection.
And for those who don’t particularly want to go to the effort of researching and trying to find the best antivirus out there, at least on Windows 10 PCs, you’re already protected by default via Windows Defender. And these days, Windows Defender provides a perfectly palatable level of protection to get by with.
The final major reason why you should use an antivirus app is the dangerous nature of the threats out there these days, with, for example, nasty strains of ransomware threatening to lock away your entire digital life, or stealthy crypto-mining malware slowing down your PC while you may not even notice.
When it comes to internet security, most organisations if given the option, would like to stick to the old adage: prevention is better than cure. But that isn’t always possible given the permeable nature of the environment a majority of the organisations operate under these days and the increased sophistication of the attacks. Panda has a…
When it comes to internet security, most organisations if given the option, would like to stick to the old adage: prevention is better than cure. But that isn’t always possible given the permeable nature of the environment a majority of the organisations operate under these days and the increased sophistication of the attacks.
Panda has a series of enterprise protection products to shield organisations from the constant onslaught. The crown-jewel in their product portfolio is Adaptive Defense 360 (AD360) that makes good use of the latest buzzword-compliant technologies (read: big data and AI) in its bid to outsmart the attackers with just the right amount of endpoint protection features.
endpoint protection platform (EPP) suite that includes a host of other features, most notably endpoint detection and response (EDR) and patch management. You can use it to block malicious apps as well as filter web content, manage patches, and more.
Another AD360 feature that it’s particularly proud of is the 100% attestation service, which only allows apps certified by Panda to run. Behind the curtains, it evaluates 10,000 different attributes for each executable, to classify it as either good or bad. Also of note is the threat hunting service that Panda claims can detect attacks that don’t use known malware signatures and more importantly, even thwart malicious actions of insiders.
All said and done, AD360 protects against a wide range of threats including known and unknown zero-day malware, fileless malware, ransomware, advanced persistent threats (APTs), phishing attacks, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), and can also thwart any malicious in-memory exploits.
While most users will be happy with its default mode of operation, the platform is flexible enough to make way for exceptions. If you know what you’re doing, you can allow the execution of an item that has been flagged as a threat.
All of its functionality is exposed via a remote cloud interface, which makes installation a non-issue and management fairly straightforward. The platform offers a detailed look into the endpoints, and also offers detailed forensic information to all malicious activities.
There are several optional add-on services as well including a patch management service that’ll keep its eyes peeled for any patches for Windows and all third-party apps.
Interface and use
One of the best features of AD360 is its cloud-based management interface. It’s logically arranged and exposes lots of functionality, without intimidating first time users.
The interface brings up the Status menu that gives you an overview of the entire network. Most of its visualizations are clickable and will help you further drill down into particular areas to get more details. The State menu has several dashboards, each of which monitors a specific area of the platform.
For instance, the Security dashboard gives you the security status of your network. Then there’s the Web access and spam dashboard that you can use to analyse web traffic as well as email on your Microsoft Exchange servers. You’ll have others if you’ve subscribed to other AD360 services like Patch Management, though our main focus is on the Security dashboard.
The Security dashboard has several widgets that each keep track of different aspects of the network. The information in the panels is generated in near-real time and most of the widgets can be clicked through to display more detailed information.
The first step however is to switch to the Computers menu to add new endpoints. You can use the interface to download or email download links to Windows, macOS, Linux or Android agents. One of the good things about the process is that once you have installed the agent on a Windows computer, it will automatically discover other computers on the same subnet and you can then install the agent on these machines remotely from the administration interface.
HP 14-DK1003DX – $239.99 at Best Buy (roughly £190/AU$350) This exceptionally affordable HP laptop from Best Buy contains the AMD Athlon Silver – a processor found in only very few other laptops. It also comes with a range of freebies to sweeten the package, like free antivirus and cloud storage. If you don’t mind the…
HP 14-DK1003DX – $239.99 at Best Buy (roughly £190/AU$350) This exceptionally affordable HP laptop from Best Buy contains the AMD Athlon Silver – a processor found in only very few other laptops. It also comes with a range of freebies to sweeten the package, like free antivirus and cloud storage. If you don’t mind the antiquated display resolution, it’s well worth a punt.View Deal
You won’t find this laptop on HP’s own website, but the 14-DK1003DX – a Best Buy exclusive at $239.99 (roughly £190/AU$350) – has an intriguing quality that not many have picked up on.
The machine is one of very few business laptops to come with an AMD Athlon Silver processor. Athlon was the iconic CPU brand that helped drive the company forward the beginning of this century and has been in limbo for about a decade. It’s now back and (surprise, surprise) is powered by AMD’s Zen+ architecture.
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The rest of the specification is adequate for the price: there’s 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD (not eMMC), a 14-inch display, Windows 10 Home in S Mode (which can be upgraded to Windows 10 Home), a 3-cell Lithiu