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Posted 27 February 2007 - 03:08 PM
In the context of computer software, a Trojan horse is a program that contains or installs a malicious program (sometimes called the payload or 'trojan'). The term is derived from the classical myth of the Trojan Horse. Trojan horses may appear to be useful or interesting programs (or at the very least harmless) to an unsuspecting user, but are actually harmful when executed. (See Social engineering.)
Often the term is shortened to simply trojan, even though this turns the adjective into a noun, reversing the myth (Greeks, not Trojans, were gaining malicious access).
There are two common types of Trojan horses. One, is otherwise useful software that has been corrupted by a cracker inserting malicious code that executes while the program is used. Examples include various implementations of weather alerting programs, computer clock setting software, and peer to peer file sharing utilities. The other type is a standalone program that masquerades as something else, like a game or image file, in order to trick the user into some misdirected complicity that is needed to carry out the program's objectives.
Trojan horse programs cannot operate autonomously, in contrast to some other types of malware, like viruses or worms. Just as the Greeks needed the Trojans to bring the horse inside for their plan to work, Trojan horse programs depend on actions by the intended victims. As such, if trojans replicate and even distribute themselves, each new victim must run the program/trojan. Therefore their virulence is of a different nature, depending on successful implementation of social engineering concepts rather than flaws in a computer system's security design or configuration.
However there is another meaning for the term 'Trojan Horse' in the field of computer architecture. Here it basically represents any piece of User Code which makes the Kernel Code access anything it would not have been able to access itself in the first place (i.e making the OS do something it wasn't supposed to be doing). Such security loopholes are called Trojan Horses.
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