Malware comes in many different flavours – none of which you’re going to want on your machine.
However, there’s another type of potential threat. Riskware describes software that’s, well, risky. Much of it is also highly useful, and depending on your needs, uninstalling it might not be an option.
While all completely legitimate, the riskware category includes programs that can present a potential threat: their functions can be used for good as well as malicious purposes.
What sort of programs fall under the Riskware label?
1. Remote Login/Administration Utilities
Programs such as TeamViewer and LogMeIn are an invaluable tool for tech support centres, allowing technicians to fix your computer remotely.
However, attackers can also place these utilities on your machine with or without your knowledge. Tech support scammers frequently use remote login tools to place harmful software on victim’s machines.
2. IRC Clients
While no longer widely in use, IRC (short for Internet Relay Chat) is still a popular messaging platform for certain Internet niche groups and even organisations.
Features of IRC client programs, however, can be misused by attackers. Trojan software can abuse certain functions of the program to cause security compromises in the affected machine. These can include “phoning home”; the malware can send status reports to its creator, as well as take commands via IRC functionality.
Other malware can also install an IRC client without the user’s knowledge for a later compromise – in this case, the utility is often installed in covert locations, such as the Windows folder or other hidden location.
If you use IRC for its intended purpose, however, you don’t have too much to worry about.
3. FTP Clients
If you run a website, chances are you’ll have used an FTP client to upload and download content from your web host. If you’re a real tinkerer, you might even have installed an FTP server, such as Apache or Filezilla Server.
However, some trojan malware can also install FTP servers on your machine for the purpose of file transfer. This allows an attacker to download and upload files to your machine for as long as you are connected to the Internet.
4. Peer-to-peer (Torrent) software
While there might be many legitimate (but perhaps legally-grey) reasons that you have torrent software on your machine, you need to pay attention to its default settings.
Some clients will automatically share certain folders on your drive over the P2P network, so make sure you know which ones these will be. Don’t save personal files inside these shared directories – keep them only for downloads.
Additionally, when you’re not actively downloading or seeding, be sure to close your torrent software completely instead of allowing it to run in the background.
This way, you can get the most out of your machine without the lag – and the security risk!