You have probably heard about computer viruses. You may have even been victim to one of their attacks. Computer viruses are just one type of harmful computer software known as Malware. Malware - short for malicious software - is used to disrupt computer operations by causing damage or performing unwanted tasks. But what is the point? Malware can be used to corrupt files, gather personal data, or access private systems. It can be used to manipulate you in to purchasing fake software. Sometimes malware is simply just a way for hackers to brag about their skills.
How do you know if your computer is infected?
How can you protect against malware?
What do you do if your computer is infected?
Let’s first take a look at some of the different types of malware.
Probably the most well know is the computer virus. A virus attaches to files and spreads through storage devices. Viruses self-replicate and are intended to cause damage. They can corrupt or delete files, reformat disks, and cause a system crash or failure. E-mail attachments, internet downloads and illicit software are common virus sources.
Worms are self-replicating and spread through network connections. Unlike viruses, worms do not need to attach to a file to spread. Worms cause network performance and stability problems, consuming bandwidth and slowing internet speeds. The worm often begins as an e-mail attachment. Its code scans files collecting e-mail addresses to help it spread. The worm spoofs e-mail addresses gathered from your computer, posing as an e-mail from one of your contacts. Worms can encrypt files and send documents over e-mail that help hackers gain “backdoor” access to a system.
Trojan horses can be disguised as useful or legitimate programs, or can be hidden within other software. Trojan horses cannot self-replicate. These files are usually downloaded and installed by the user, or they can be spread with the help of viruses or worms. This type of malicious software places code in the computer’s operating system which allows hackers to access the infected computer. This access can be used to disrupt operation, steal data, download or upload files, delete files, view the user’s screen and monitor keyboard strokes to collect sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and PINs.
Spyware gathers and transmits information such as web history, browser information, system information, IP addresses, and personal data. It can change computer configurations, collect advertising data, track frequent internet searches, and cause your browser to redirect to other websites.
Adware and browser hacking software are malware geared toward advertising. Adware can cause ads to pop-up whenever the computer connects to the internet, whether the browser is open or not. Browser hacking software can reconfigure the internet browser changing the default homepage or search engine, add search bars or toolbars, create desktop shortcuts, cause pop-ups, and redirect to sites that advertise or collect internet usage information.
Rogue security software is a type of malware intended to mislead you into believing your computer is infected and then offer downloads to remove the virus. This malware often appears as a pop-up warning notification or message. It can prevent applications from opening and misrepresent important operating system files as viruses.
Ransomware will lock down your computer and display a message (often claiming to be from a law enforcement agency) requesting payment to restore computer functionality. Like its name suggests, ransomware blackmails the user demanding money to release control of the system.
Rootkits are software that conceal malicious programs and hacks. They can keep malware code from being read or removed.
How can you tell if you have malware on your computer?
Here are a few common symptoms that may indicate the presence of a virus or other malicious software:
Your computer or internet is suddenly running slower than normal.
Programs unexpectedly open or shut down.
Your computer frequently freezes or suddenly shuts down.
The hard drive is running more than normal or non-stop.
The computer’s hardware is functioning on its own (i.e. CD tray randomly opens self).
You receive unexpected warning, pop-up, or error messages.
You are suddenly locked out of your computer.
Programs become inaccessible.
Files or folders disappear.
Settings have been changed and cannot be adjusted or restored.
There are messages in your e-mail sent folder that you did not send.
You find posts on social media that you did not make.
How can you keep your computer from being infected?
The symptoms may not always be obvious. So make sure you protect yourself from malicious software.
First, familiarize yourself with the types of malware and common sources. The more you know the less likely you are to become a victim of malicious software. Lucky for you, you have done just that while reading this blog!
Use protection. Install anti-virus software and keep it up to date.
Update your computer regularly. Operating system updates can fix bugs that may be exploited by hackers.
Back up your computer regularly in case you need to reset or recover it.
Be cautious of third-party software or applications requesting access to programs or system info. If it seems fishy it probably is.
Do not open unexpected e-mail attachments or attachments from unknown sources – especially any computer command files that could possible run a program (files ending in .exe, .com, .bat).
Do not click links in e-mails. Especially avoid links for banking or other websites with personal data. Use a link you have bookmarked or retype the website into the address bar.
Do not click on links in unexpected instant messages.
Do not open documents or run programs from unknown sources (i.e. file sharing sites, pirated software or media).
What do you do if your computer becomes infected with malware?
Although these tips will help prevent infections, nothing is completely foolproof. If a virus or malware happens to slip into your system, come see us at Tech Armor. We can have your computer cleaned up and running again in no time!