The Virus Lab – What is a Trojan (in plain English)

For our second instalment of The Virus Lab series, we will be looking at Trojans. You may be familiar with the story of ancient Troy but, if not, here it is in a nutshell. The Ancient Greeks had been sieging the ancient city of Troy for roughly 10 years and were no closer to gaining entrance to the city. Odysseus, a Greek king, thought of building a giant statue of a horse (the symbol of Troy) as a fake gift for the city. Inside the hollowed out wooden horse, many Greek soldiers would be hiding. The people of Troy, thinking the Greeks had given up, took the Greek “gift” into the city, only to then have the Greek soldiers pour out and take over Troy.

But what do ancient tales have to do with modern computer woes?

Computer security experts named a specific type of infection after the Ancient Greek “gift” to Troy because of their sneaky resemblances. Like the fake gift to Troy by the Greeks, you may receive a Trojan Horse virus through an email or a download that looks benign or even resembles something you would want to download. Once it is loaded onto your computer, the malicious program then can sneak out, like the Greek soldiers, and take control of your computer.

Though people often call Trojans, Trojan viruses, they actually aren’t “viruses” at all. Like we explained in the first instalment of The Virus Lab series, viruses replicate themselves to slowly infect more parts of your computer or other computers. Trojan Horses don’t replicate themselves, they are one sole malicious program containing various hidden infections. This does mean they are any less dangerous than viruses!

You may recall our previous article on hackers where we discussed Black Hat hackers and the creation of “backdoors” as a means of gaining access to information. Trojan Horses are the perfect example! They can also be used to create Trojan-Downloaders. These continuously download malicious files onto your computer. Backdoors and Trojan-Downloaders can be used to steal your banking or personal information as well as harm the software on your computer.

So how do Trojan Horses get on your computer? Like the people of Troy who welcomed the “gift” from the Greek and brought the invaders within their city gates, a computer users often willingly downloads the infection, without understanding the potential danger. Therefore, your best bet to stay safe is to avoid opening email attachments from unknown senders or in strange emails and only download programs on which you have done a little research. A quick Google search can go a long way! But in the event of a infection, don’t worry the FixMeStick is there to help!