Just like how a thief can break into your home, malware is a virtual perpetrator that sneaks into your computer without you knowing it. The worst things are not only they can change security settings, but they also steal your personal information and even corrupt your important files. To protect your devices, know how to recognize a malware attack and the safety measures you can do.
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What is Malware?
Malware is malicious software that is intentionally created to harm a computer system or its user. It is designed by cyber attackers to procure access to a computer in the form of a virus and invades a host network without the victim’s knowledge.
The malware works by tricking you to click on a malicious link such as email attachments, disreputable ads, downloading applications, or visiting a website that has been hacked by them. There are different types of malware and among the famous are worms, spyware, ransomware, and Trojan horses.
In general, malware is a threat to your device, personal, and cybersecurity. It’s like a sledgehammer that overruns and performs tasks such as encrypting, deleting files, altering information, hacking computer functions, and worst is stealing. While every malware’s destructive capacity may work differently, a combined worm and Trojan horse, for instance, can leave endless damage.
Symantec recently reported around 246 million new malware variants tracked in 2018. The danger is that the number of attack groups using destructive malware is on the rise.
In 2020, the average cost of a data violation worldwide reached USD 3.86 million, with USD 8.64 million in the United States alone. Cybercriminals target identifiable information such as names, addresses, national identification numbers, or credit card information and then sell these records underground digital marketplaces. –source
How Malware Attacks Your System
Malware assailants use different virtual means to spread malware into devices and networks. When you innocently click malicious software and installed it into your device – the virus conquers your system and starts to secretly act against your device’s interests.
For example, you are attracted to a music app (a pretending malware) because it is offered for free so you excitingly have installed it on your computer. At another point, you may click a good plagiarism-check program, but sadly it instead intrudes on your personal data and creating a security breach. Malicious programs are also spread via a USB after connecting to an infected external drive.
Regardless of an attack’s approach, all types of malware will exploit your device. What is alarming is that malware attacks are getting sophisticated making them difficult to detect until viruses have created massive damage. Not being vigilant can be too late for you to realize that the threat has accessed or stolen all your personal information.
Another thing to pay attention to is how the new malware strains these days use obfuscation or hard-to-understand tactics to dupe not only common users but double-cross security administrators, as well. These techniques professionally hide malicious traffic that changes codes from time to time in order to avoid detection.
10 Types of malware and their unique traits
I’m not saying you memorize the terminologies, but simply familiarize yourself with malware groups so somehow you have an idea of how each type works and affects your computer and you.
Viruses are the most common type of malware that use human action to infect computers, corrupt data, and reformat hard disks. A virus is the only type of malware that “infects” other files.
Worms are standalone programs that self-replicates without a host and spread copies of themselves without directives from their authors but from computer to computer.
Trojans often disguise as credible programs that trick you into downloading so they can execute Trojan horses on your system and shoot their malicious functions.
Spywares monitor and collect data information about you and then send them to a third party. Often this malware uses your data for commercial or advertising purposes.
Ransomware exploits a system and encrypts its data. Often spreads through phishing where cybercriminals can demand a ransom payment to decrypt and release the data back to you.
Rootkit penetrates administrator systems by hauling software that a user trusts and then flags viruses to obtain the root of an authorized person’s access. For example, Authorized User Accounts.
Backdoor is a remote access Trojan (RAT) that secretly creates a backdoor into an infected computer system and gives perpetrators the ability to invalidate system commands and update malware.
Adware is used to slow down a user’s browser with the intent to display pop-up or banner ads that entice the user into making a purchase.
Keyloggers is a system monitoring software that records your browsing activity and collects keystrokes to give hackers access to your personal data including emails, card numbers, webpages you visit, and other pertinent information.
Fileless Malware is different as it doesn’t infect the file system but exploits the memory instead, launching a sub-process into the system. Such attacks are harder to detect and stop.
How to recognize a malware attack
Your Computer Has Turned Sluggish
Since malware programs can overwhelm your system, an attack usually takes up a lot of CPU and memory resources to the extent of slowing your computer down and sometimes becomes inoperable. This starts to give access to the remote hacker that your internet connection seems so heavily laden and browsing the internet is taking you so long.
Your Device Keeps Shutting Down
When your computer is having issues with starting up and opening programs but keeps shutting you down, it’s malware! This is caused by your software that has been disturbed. Scan the operating system to avoid a system crash and computer shutdown. This makes a regular scanning of your software a smart idea.
You Get Annoying Pop-up Messages
This is obviously strange. Where on earth are those pop-up messages coming from in the first place? Adware is a common destructive malware that generates pop-ups to catch your attention by bombarding your screen with good-looking ads. Clicking and downloading that presented software gives them permission into your system. A Comodo Antivirus is a good software that gets rid of adware.
Your Files Seem to Go Missing or Deleted
Where did your files go? Beware. Malware is good at is changing the names of your files. They can be transferred to another folder and sometimes may completely wipe your data stored on the computer. If you encounter instances where you are wondering how come your File A has traveled to File B without you doing it – triple check. Unless you only forgot that you did the transfer, you’ve been attacked.
You Are Getting Emails of All Sorts
Hackers will do everything and may send you an infected email using friendly addresses. Remind yourself to hover over the links first but be careful not to click.
- Does the domain match the sender’s address?
- Is the name correctly spelled?
- Is the sender’s address impossible to read?
- Does it have a weird URL?
- Does the destination URL match the landing site?
All these can be trickery disguising as friendly documents, PDFs, e-files, photos, and even voicemails that attackers attach to the email to catch your trust and interest. Remember that signatures can be mimicked. If you get into the trap, it will install malware. Be observant. If an email is not from a trusted source, don’t open it. If it sounds bizarre, delete it.
7 Safety Measures to Drive Viruses Away
The best way to handle and prevent viruses from hitting your computer is to install Antivirus Protection.
Keep your applications up-to-date by regularly updating your operating system and browser’s security settings.
Create a regular file backup or use a security tool. This is helpful in case they become corrupted, ransomed, or deleted.
Only download software, programs, movies, and music from legitimate websites or services. Check sources at all costs.
Avoid clicking links and pop-ups including emails or attachments unless you know, trust, or have verified an email address.
Get a personal hotspot when using the internet in public places, or use a VPN for protection when connecting to a public WIFI.
Educate yourself about malware attacks and if possible, teach others. This helps lessen infection that can be passed from device to device.
In any case that you get tricked and penetrated, your computer will certainly show symptoms of an infection. Act at once because once the malware is executed, it can be difficult to reverse the damage without a good, verified backup. Acting by arming your computer will help ensure that you get rid of the enemy.
Installing a good antivirus program isolates the malware from your computer’s system and prevents it from running background resources. Being on guard will rid of the malicious program before it has enough time to invade and take over your property.
What If You Don’t Have Antivirus?
Similar to how an unvaccinated person can spread the virus in a community, an unprotected computer can also serve as a threat to other devices once hit by viruses. This is one reason hackers are confident about – because they know that at any time you put your guard down, they will and can take over.
As a matter of fact, a cybercriminal may use a captured system as a means to break passwords, as a guise to hide from authorities, or simply to utilize the account to flood targets with pop-ups, ads, promotions, and other malicious accessories. The internet is full of hackers that spread threats trying to access computer systems for theft. Getting Antivirus Protection for an entire system may be expensive, but it gives you peace of mind that your company is free from the threat of malware attacks.
What to Do If You Get a Virus
If you suspect an infection, run a full system scan using your antivirus software such as Norton. Following the program’s instructions, review the threats and take the action recommended. If the virus persists, try to reinstall a backup before you began having issues.
Another strategy is to disconnect from the internet or close all accounts. Acting quickly helps you stop the hacker from accessing your resources. Closing or freezing accounts can save you from the stress of the moment’s dispute. Then contact a professional to discuss the impact an attack would have on your accounts.
In some cases, you may need to delete your temporary files to clear the system. If it prevents you from accessing the files to delete, do a reboot in a safe mode to restrict certain programs and allow you to fix the issue without interruption. Depending on the severity of the attack, it may be helpful to reinstall your operating system. If you’re not sure how to do that, ask a computer technician to take a look.
To Sum It Up
Unfortunately, detecting and stopping malware programs can be challenging as it can be easy to get it wrong and miss the main element. Plus, you’re never familiar with malware and are not aware when exactly an attack happens. Even when you do, you also are not certain if the malware program has modified the system to such a degree that it will be impossible to make it completely restored.
Now that you know how important it is to have antivirus software installed on your computer, another piece of advice is to assure you have a good offline backup of all important files. What you need to prepare for is to detect the presence of a hacker.
Are there special measures you have tried effective in fighting against malware attacks? Share them with us in the comments.