What it is: A trojan horse is a program that looks harmless but can do malicious activities from deleting files to capturing keystrokes to snare important data like passwords and credit card numbers.
There’s a new breed of Trojan Horse malware called banking trojans. Unlike Trojan Horses of the past that tried to cause damage by deleting or encrypting files, banking trojans infect your computer and wait only until you go online to do your banking. Then these banking trojans steal your important information such as passwords, bank account numbers, and other information needed to access your account. While most banking trojans target Windows PCs, don’t expect them to avoid Macintosh or iOS devices for long.
The more people bank online, the more lucrative banking trojans will become, so they have an incentive to steal as much information as possible. Don’t trust your bank to protect your data, so you must trust only yourself.
Here’s the key to banking trojans. To increase their chances of success, they must infect as many computers as possible. That currently means infecting Windows PCs since they’re more common than Macintosh computers. Banking trojans also infect common browsers such as Internet Explorer and even Microsoft’s new Edge browser.
So the key to protecting yourself short of not banking online at all, is to avoid whatever else is using. Since most people use a Windows PC, avoid Windows. Since most Windows users use Internet Explorer or Edge, avoid those two browsers.
In the Macintosh world, most people use Safari so don’t use Safari. Other popular browsers include Chrome and Firefox, so don’t use those either. What can you do?
Use a virtual machine. You can buy a virtual machine program like Parallels or VMware’s Fusion, but you can get a free one called VirtualBox, which you can install on Windows or OS X. Now download and install Linux as a virtual machine.
Since banking trojans look for popular operating systems and popular browsers, you can foil them by using a different operating system and a different browser. Banking trojans typically target specific operating systems so a Windows trojan horse can’t infect a Macintosh and a Macintosh trojan horse can’t infect a Windows PC.
By running Linux as a virtual machine, you isolate your computer and main operating system from exposure. Run Linux as a virtual machine and then use a less common browser such as Opera. Chances are good a banking trojan horse won’t know how to infect Opera and won’t know how to infect Linux. If a banking trojan horse does manage to infect Opera and Linux, it won’t be able to infect your real operating system and computer. Thus running Linux and Opera as a virtual machine shields your real computer from the hazards of banking trojans.
As a general rule, don’t use whatever else is using and you’ll minimize security risks right there. Then access sensitive online data through an obscure browser and operating system running as a virtual machine. This may be less convenient than using your standard browser, but security is far more important than convenience, because how convenient will life be if someone steals your bank information?