DeBug Computer: Malicious software – Is your computer protected?
Better known as malware, malicious software is defined as software that has a malicious effect or was developed with a malicious intent. Malware can cause significant slowdowns of your systems, corrupt file data and steal private information. And, just like technology, new malware is being released constantly. It can seem nearly impossible to keep up with, but with some simple knowledge and tools, you can protect your computer from being infected.
The first thing to know about malware is that there are different kinds that affect your computer in many ways.
Viruses: Probably one of the most well known members of the malware family, viruses are self-replicating, infectious malware. Viruses work by adding themselves into existing files and will replicate and occupy hard-disk space or damage and destroy files, both of which may render your system useless.
Worms: Much like a virus, worms work by replicating themselves, but they don’t insert themselves into existing files. Instead, they populate files from within their own containers and spread through networks to their intended target, not usually changing the systems they pass through.
Adware: Strictly speaking, not all ad-supported software, or adware, is classified as malware. Adware is considered malware when the ads can’t be closed or keep popping up. Generally, adware won’t slow down or harm your computer but is still an unwanted nuisance.
Spyware: Spyware is just what it sounds like, software that is designed to spy on your activity. It can merely be a tool to send adware, or it can collect and send confidential information like credit card numbers, usernames, and other personal data.
Trojans: Aptly named for its Greek wooden counterpart, the Trojan horse, a Trojan often sneaks into your computer in the guise of something useful. Many Trojans use this backdoor access to install spyware or ransomware.
Ransomware: Ransomware is one of the newest, and most dangerous types of malware out there. It blocks access to your data, either by locking you out of your computer or encrypting your files. The goal of both methods is the same; money. While extortion is bad enough, there is no guarantee that the data will be returned to its user after payment.
How can I protect myself?
In the case of malware, an ounce of protection is certainly worth more than a pound of cure. Be sure to install updates to your system regularly and whenever a security patch is released.
Use best practices when online: avoid clicking on pop-up ads or unfamiliar links, downloading software from questionable sites, and always be cautious of offers that seem too good to be true.
Additionally, you should have a trustworthy anti-malware or anti-virus software installed to detect and remove infections. If you’re not sure which software to use, ask your trusted IT technician.
One final action you should take is to back up your information, in case your anti-malware software fails. We recommend backing your systems and files up to a secure cloud server or a removable hard drive, so there is a second copy of your information.
What can be done if my system is infected?
If you’ve carried out the steps above, your anti-malware tool may have caught and quarantined the infection, before it had a chance to affect your computer. In that situation, you should be safe but run additional scans, just in case.
If you don’t use an anti-virus, visit a trusted technician who may be able to remove the infection from your device. At that time, you should also ask for their recommendations on anti-malware software that fits your budget.
DeBug Computer has been serving the community for nearly 20 years. With two locations in Carson City and Minden, DeBug provides IT support and consulting services to home users, and dental, medical and business offices.