Trojan horse (computing)
In computing, a Trojan horse, or trojan, is any malware which misleads users of its true intent. The term is derived from the Ancient Greek story of the deceptive Trojan Horse that led to the fall of the city of Troy.
Trojans are generally spread by some form of social engineering, for example where a user is duped into executing an email attachment disguised to appear not suspicious, (e.g., a routine form to be filled in), or by clicking on some fake advertisement on social media or anywhere else. Although their payload can be anything, many modern forms act as a backdoor, contacting a controller which can then have unauthorized access to the affected computer. Trojans may allow an attacker to access users' personal information such as banking information, passwords, or personal identity. It can also delete a user's files or infect other devices connected to the network. Ransomware attacks are often carried out using a trojan.
Origin of the concept
It's not clear where or when the concept, and this term for it, was first used, but by 1971 the first Unix manual assumed its readers knew both:
Also, one may not change the owner of a file with the set—user—ID bit on, otherwise one could create Trojan Horses able to misuse other’s files.
It was made popular by Ken Thompson in his 1983 Turing Award acceptance lecture "Reflections on Trusting Trust", subtitled: To what extent should one trust a statement that a program is free of Trojan horses? Perhaps it is more important to trust the people who wrote the software. He mentioned that he knew about the possible existence of trojans from a report on the security of Multics.
Trojan viruses, in this way, may require interaction with a malicious controller (not necessarily distributing the trojan) to fulfill their purpose. It is possible for those involved with trojans to scan computers on a network to locate any with a trojan installed, which the hacker can then control, creating a so called botnet.
Some trojans take advantage of a security flaw in older versions of Internet Explorer and Google Chrome to use the host computer as an anonymizer proxy to effectively hide Internet usage, enabling the controller to use the Internet for illegal purposes while all potentially incriminating evidence indicates the infected computer or its IP address. The host's computer may or may not show the internet history of the sites viewed using the computer as a proxy. The first generation of anonymizer trojan horses tended to leave their tracks in the page view histories of the host computer. Later generations of the trojan tend to "cover" their tracks more efficiently. Several versions of Sub7 have been widely circulated in the US and Europe and became the most widely distributed examples of this type of trojan.
In German-speaking countries, spyware used or made by the government is sometimes called govware. Govware is typically a Trojan software used to intercept communications from the target computer. Some countries like Switzerland and Germany have a legal framework governing the use of such software. Examples of govware trojans include the Swiss MiniPanzer and MegaPanzer and the German "state trojan" nicknamed R2D2. German govware works by exploiting security gaps unknown to the general public and accessing smartphone data before it becomes encrypted via other applications.
Due to the popularity of botnets among hackers and the availability of advertising services that permit authors to violate their users' privacy, trojans are becoming more common. According to a survey conducted by BitDefender from January to June 2009, "trojan-type malware is on the rise, accounting for 83% of the global malware detected in the world." Trojans have a relationship with worms, as they spread with the help given by worms and travel across the internet with them. BitDefender has stated that approximately 15% of computers are members of a botnet, usually recruited by a trojan infection.
Private and governmental
- DarkComet – CIA / NSA
- FinFisher – Lench IT solutions / Gamma International
- DaVinci / Galileo RCS – HackingTeam
- 0zapftis / r2d2 StaatsTrojaner – DigiTask
- TAO QUANTUM/FOXACID – NSA
- Magic Lantern – FBI
- WARRIOR PRIDE – GCHQ
- EGABTR - late 1980s
- Netbus – 1998 (published)
- Sub7 by Mobman – 1999 (published)
- Back Orifice – 1998 (published)
- Y3K Remote Administration Tool by E&K Tselentis – 2000 (published)
- Beast – 2002 (published)
- Bifrost trojan – 2004 (published)
- DarkComet – 2008-2012 (published)
- Blackhole exploit kit – 2012 (published)
- Gh0st RAT – 2009 (published)
- MegaPanzer BundesTrojaner – 2009 (published)
- MEMZ by Leurak - 2016 (published)
Detected by security researchers
- Twelve Tricks - 1990
- Clickbot.A – 2006 (discovered)
- Zeus – 2007 (discovered)
- Flashback trojan – 2011 (discovered)
- ZeroAccess – 2011 (discovered)
- Koobface – 2008 (discovered)
- Vundo – 2009 (discovered)
- Meredrop – 2010 (discovered)
- Coreflood – 2010 (discovered)
- Tiny Banker Trojan – 2012 (discovered)
- Shedun Android malware – 2015 (discovered)
The term "trojan horse" in computing is derived from the legendary Trojan Horse; itself named after Troy. For this reason "Trojan" is often capitalized. However, while style guides and dictionaries differ, many suggest a lower case "trojan" for normal use. That is the approach taken in this article - apart from when first introducing the word and its derivation.
- Computer security
- Cyber spying
- Dancing pigs
- Exploit (computer security)
- Industrial espionage
- Principle of least privilege
- Privacy-invasive software
- Remote administration
- Remote administration software
- Reverse connection
- Rogue security software
- Technical support scam – unsolicited phone calls from a fake "tech support" person, claiming that the computer has a virus or other problems
- Timeline of computer viruses and worms
- Zombie (computer science)
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