If you've seen any of the “Terminator” movies, you might remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a deadly T-800 assassin robot. In “Terminator 2,” there's an even more deadly robot called the T-1000. So, when you hear about a virus called the T9000, you know it has to be bad.
Unlike the terminators, however, which announce themselves by leaving a trail of bodies and blowing up half of Los Angeles, the T9000's danger is that you don't even know it's there. According to security researchers at Palo Alto Networks, it sits quietly on your computer stealing your information.
While the T9000 steals data from the usual places, such as documents and Web history, it goes a bit further. For example, it can take screenshots of what you're doing on your computer, steal encrypted data, and is especially good at stealing information from Skype. It actually records and stores audio and video from you Skype conversations.
While T9000 was originally targeted at companies and high-profile individuals, it's spreading fast because it works on any computer and doesn't take much to install. In fact, it won't even trip most security software.
Palo Alto Networks found that T9000 checks for 24 popular security software programs and adjusts itself to be invisible to that program. In fact, it installs in stages and pauses at every stage to make sure it isn't being monitored by security software or security experts.
Fortunately, now that the researchers at Palo Alto Networks have uncovered it and learned how it works, security software companies can make changes to detect and clean it out. In the meantime, you can avoid it with a few simple steps.
T9000 arrives in a file with an .rtf extension, which stands for Rich Text Format. This isn't a very common file extension to see anymore, so if it shows up in your email as an attachment, definitely think twice about opening it.
Speaking of which, don't download or open unsolicited email attachments of any kind. You should also avoid clicking links in emails because they might take you to malicious sites.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 atNews.Komando.com.