You probably have at least a vague idea of the meaning of a Trojan horse. Even if you don’t know the whole story of how Greek soldiers snuck into the city of Troy by hiding inside a giant wooden horse, which was thought to be a gift signifying surrender… well, you do now. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, as the old saying goes. And beware of malware that looks friendly – because those Trojan horses are riding high again.
In fact, Trojan attacks are now the most detected attacks against businesses. New research from Malwarebytes Labs shows that Trojan attacks more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. Backdoor attacks, a type of Trojan that a hacker uses to bypass security and access a system unnoticed, are the second most detected attacks.
The term “Trojan horse” was first used in computing as far back as 1974, and Trojans emerged as a common threat in the early 1980s. A Trojan horse, or Trojan for short, is a type of malware that appears legitimate. It might look like music, an ad, or a popular app. Trojans use deception and social engineering to trick users into loading and executing the malware. At that point, Trojans can take over your computer and cause serious damage to your network.
A Trojan is not a virus, which can execute and replicate itself. A Trojan relies on the user to activate it. In today’s age of deceptive phishing and ransomware attacks, it’s only fitting that one of the earliest forms of malware that relied heavily on deceit has reemerged. However, Trojans are more subtle and sneakier than ransomware, which is often bold and threatening in nature, looking for a short-term payoff. Trojans play the long game, quietly accessing a system, sitting there undetected, and stealing sensitive data over a long period of time.
The first known Trojan in 1975 was hidden in a trivia game called ANIMAL. It spread across computer networks but was a relatively harmless prank. The Emotet Trojan is a prime example of the new breed of Trojans that are far more sinister. Emotet, which hackers are now using to target businesses, became notorious in 2018 for stealing data, monitoring network traffic and dropping other Trojans on compromised systems.
While ransomware attacks continue to make headlines, organizations must be on the lookout for Trojans as well. Sudden changes in computer settings and unusual activity are warning signs that a Trojan may be present. For example, if programs are running even though you didn’t open them, performance is slow, your device keeps freezing up, or you see more popups than usual, don’t just assume you’re having a bad day. A Trojan many have snuck into your device.
Standard security best practices are the best defense against Trojans. Keep your security software updated and run scans frequently. Never download or install software, click a link, open an attachment, or run a program unless it’s from a source you completely trust and you’re sure the source is authentic. If a program running on your device seems suspicious, immediately report the issue to IT and Google it to see if it’s a recognized Trojan.
Verteks can help you fortify your defenses against modern threats, including the ones that have been making lives miserable for decades. Let us plug any security gaps in your IT environment that a Trojan might be able to exploit.