In computer software, a time bomb is part of a computer program that has been written so that it will start or stop functioning after a predetermined date or time is reached. A malicious program that is programmed to “detonate” at a specific time and release a virus onto the computer system or network. The term “time bomb” does not refer to a program that stops functioning a specific number of days after it is installed; instead, the term “trialware” applies. Time bombs are commonly used in beta (pre-release) software when the manufacturer of the software does not want the beta version being used after the final release date.Time Bomb is considered to be a virus, a type of malware that is designed to create havoc on your computer. A Time Bomb infection can be as harmless as showing annoying messages on your screen, or as vicious as disabling your computer altogether.
Regardless of the virus’ behavior, the primary objective of computer hackers who program viruses such as like Time Bomb is to delete, destroy, or steal data. Computer viruses such as Time Bomb are software programs that infect your computer to disrupt its normal functioning without your knowledge. Typically, a virus gains entry on your computer as an isolated piece of executable code or by through bundling / piggybacking with other software programs.
Once a virus such as Time Bomb gains entry into your computer, the symptoms of infection can vary depending on the type of virus. Some viruses can keep adding shortcuts of other programs on your desktop, while others can start running unwanted programs, also referred to as “PUP” (Potentially Unwanted Programs) to intentionally slow down your computer. There are also more harmful viruses that present the infamous “blue screen of death”, a critical system error that forces you to keep restarting your computer. Viruses like Time Bomb can even delete your important files and folders.
One example of time bomb software would be Microsoft’s Windows Vista Beta 2, which was programmed to expire on May 31, 2007. The time limits on time bomb software are not usually as heavily enforced as they are on trial software since time bomb software does not usually implement secure clock functions.
The first use of a time bomb in software may have been with the Scribe markup language and word processing system, developed by Brian Reid. Reid sold Scribe to a software company called Unilogic (later renamed Scribe Systems) and agreed to insert a set of time-dependent functions (called “time bombs”) that would deactivate freely copied versions of the program after 90-day expiration date. To avoid deactivation, users paid the software company, which then issued a code that defused the internal time bomb feature.
Richard Stallman saw this as a betrayal of the programmer ethos. Instead of honoring the notion of share-and-share-alike, Reid had inserted a way for companies to compel programmers to pay for information access.
Unlike 26/11, the terror attack at the Taj Palace six years ago, neither gunshots nor bomb blasts were heard. Nor were terror-struck people seen running for cover. Quietly, this terror attack crippled India’s largest container port—the Navi-Mumbai based Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust or JNPT. The terminal, with a capacity to handle 1.8 million standard container units, ground to a halt. The attacker was a malware called Petya. Its handlers were faceless hackers operating from an unknown location that could be as far off as thousands of kilometers away in Russia or as close as Mumbai.
The damage at JNPT was contained, and it did not create panic among the masses. But imagine a similar attack at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi Metro, an electricity grid or a nuclear station. A shadowy hacker working a cheap laptop sitting in a remote den can bring the country’s vital public utilities to a halt, creating chaos that even a mega-terror strike cannot. Unlike Hurricane Irma, you won’t even see it coming.
The vulnerability of our cyber systems is a ticking time bomb. It can explode anytime, anywhere. Even in your hands, like your smartphone too is on target. From restaurant-search service Zomato to Reliance Jio, from your Aadhaar to your ATM card, nothing is impregnable.
There was a time when surfing was a harmless hobby. But today, it is an apt metaphor for the dangers lurking beneath your screen. Google, Amazon or YouTube only skim the surface of the World Wide Web. Below that surface lies the Dark Web, the depths from where criminals plot to steal your money and your identity, and lay siege to banks and public services. Last year in India, cyber attacks compromised more than 3 million ATM and debit cards. Next door in Bangladesh, hackers infiltrated a central bank official’s computer and made off with over $80 million in one of the biggest cyber heists ever.
How did Time Bomb get on my Computer?
Time Bomb can gain entry onto your computer in several ways. Some of the common methods of Time Bomb infection include:
- Downloads from questionable websites
- Infected email attachments
- External media, such as pen drive, DVD, and memory card already infected with Time Bomb
- Fake updates that trick you installing them
- Programs posing as fake virus removal tools
- Infected documents circulating on peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks, torrent sites, and IRC channels
Symptoms of Time Bomb Infection
The primary symptoms of Time Bomb infections are:
- Computer behaving unpredictably
- Unexpected operating system error messages
- Blue screen errors in Windows
- Sluggish computer performance
- Programs stop responding and show “Not Responding” error messages
- New files getting created at the root level of a hard drive
- Spam messages unknowingly being sent from your email account
- Mysterious files and folder deletions
Removing Time Bomb from your Computer
To get rid of Time Bomb from your computer, perform the following steps:
- Use an anti-malware program
- Clean your Windows Registry