How to Protect Your Computer From Flame

Flame and Other Types of 'Super Malware'

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There is a new breed of super malware on the rise that appears to be both larger in size and more complex than earlier types of malware. Stuxnet was one of the first pieces of super malware to get the world's attention and now Flame appears to be the new darling of the media.

Stuxnet was built to target very specific industrial equipment. Flame is a modular form of super malware with a completely different goal than Stuxnet.

Flame appears to be geared towards espionage activities. No one has claimed responsibility for developing Flame at this time but many experts believe that it is not the work of hobbyists or hackers. Some experts believe that it was actually developed by a large nation-state with a lot of resources.

Regardless of Flame's origin, it is a very powerful and complex beast. It is able to do some pretty amazing things such as eavesdrop on its victims by turning on hardware components such as computer connected microphones. Flame can also connect to some Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones near an infected computer and gather information from them including the phone's contacts. Some of its other known capabilities include the ability to record Skype calls, take screenshots, and record keystrokes.

While Flame and Stuxnet appear to have been built to attack very specific targets, there is always the potential for other organizations to 'borrow' code elements of Flame and Stuxnet in order to roll their own new creations.

How can you protect your computer from super malware?

1. Update your malware detection signature files

According to experts, Flame and Stuxnet are very sophisticated and can likely evade some traditional methods of detection. Fortunately, anti-virus providers now have signatures for the current versions of the malware so updating your A/V signature files will likely help detect the current varieties in the wild, but won't protect from new versions that are likely in development.

2. Follow a Defense-In-Depth Layered Defense Strategy

Medieval castles had many layers of defense to keep intruders out. They had moats filled with crocodiles, drawbridges, towers, high walls, archers, boiling oil to dump on people climbing the walls, etc. Let's pretend that your computer is a castle. You should have multiple layers of defenses so that if one layer fails, there are other layers to help prevent the bad guys from getting in. Check out our Defense-in-Depth Computer Security Guide for a detailed plan on how to protect your castle...er, um, computer.

3. Get a Second Opinion...... Scanner

You may love your antivirus software so much that you want to marry it, but is it really doing its job? While the "All systems are green" messages are comforting, is everything really being protected or has some malware entered your system in disguise and fooled your antivirus software? Second Opinion Malware Scanners such as Malwarebytes are exactly what they sound like, they are a secondary malware detector that will hopefully catch anything that your first line scanner fails to catch. They work in harmony with your main antivirus or antimalware scanner.

4. Update Your Browser and E-mail Clients

Many malware infections enter your system via the web or as a link or attachment in an e-mail. Make sure that you are using the latest version of your Internet Browser and e-mail client of choice. Check the browser's and e-mail client developer's website to ensure that you aren't missing any patches.

5. Turn on and Test Your Firewall

You've got malware covered, but is your system protected from ports and services-based attacks? Many people have a wireless / wired router with a built-in firewall, but some people don't bother turning on the firewall feature. Enabling the firewall is a fairly simple process and can offer a lot of protection.

Some router firewalls have a mode called "stealth mode" that makes your computer nearly invisible to port scanning malware.

Once you've gotten your Firewall enabled and configured, you should test it to see if it's actually doing its job. Check out our article on How to Test Your Firewall for more information.

If you end up with the super malware on your system, all is not lost. Check out: I've Been Hacked, Now What? to learn how to get rid of the malware before it does any more damage.