What is a Trojan Horse and How Does It Work?

Jamison Cush: From Troy to your computer, beware the Trojan horse. According to legend, Greek warriors hid inside a wooden horse to infiltrate Troy and end a decade-long war. A Trojan horse computer attack works the same way. An attacker hides a malicious program in an innocent looking email or download. With a click or download, the program transfers malware to the victim’s device, and the malicious code can execute whatever task the attacker intended. Once a Trojan has been transferred and activated, it can negatively impact performance and put the victim at risk in a plethora of ways. Trojans can give an attacker backdoor control over the device, record keyboard strokes or steal sensitive user data, download a virus a worm, encrypt user data and extort money for the key, activate a device’s camera or recording capabilities, or turn the computer into a zombie computer to carry out fraud or illegal actions. While most Trojan horse attacks are malicious, they can also be used by law enforcement to legally capture information relevant to a criminal investigation. It’s difficult for even advanced malware scanners to find and destroy Trojan horses, but they’re typically accompanied by unusual behaviors, like excessive pop ups, loss of keyboard and mouse control, and unexpected changes to the computer’s desktop resolution, color, and orientation.

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