Do you suspect your computer to have malware?
Short for “malicious software,” malware refers to any intrusive program or code designed by cybercriminals to take data and destroy or damage computer systems. Malware is an umbrella term that covers viruses, Trojan viruses, spyware, adware, worms and ransomware.
All malware is coded to harm and damage computers, mobile devices, networks and computer systems through invasion and taking partial control over its operations. Think of it as the human flu – it messes with the normal functions of the human body in a snap.
In this article, we’ll answer the all-important question: what’s a possible sign of malware, what are its different forms and how to avoid malware infecting your devices.
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What’s a Possible Sign of Malware?
Malware viruses are becoming more and more common and most of us are aware of the damage they can do. Online security is a major concern for both small and large corporations as well as individuals.
Considering its adverse effects and the many ways professional ITs has invented to combat malware, many of us have still fallen into its trap. Check out the hints and possible signs of malware below:
- Noticeably slow computer, freezes, or frequent crashes
- Unexpected and flooding pop-up ads
- Inexplicable loss of disk space
- Renamed files
- Poor Internet connection
- Sudden increase in your system’s Internet activity
- Unresponsive or sudden closing of a browser
- Traces of obscure email activity
- Random messages, sounds, or music
- Getting locked out of your accounts
- Unusual error messages
- Browser homepage chances without input
- Disabled antivirus software
- Disabled system tools
- Loss of access to your files or computer
What are the Different Forms of Malware Infection?
Viruses fall under a subclass of malware. It is malicious software hitched to a document or a file that supports macros to achieve its code, moving from one host to another. Once a virus infects your device, it remains dormant until the file is opened. This type of malware is designed to interrupt a system’s ability to function properly. Consequently, viruses can trigger operational issues and data loss.
This type of malware rapidly spreads to any device within a network. Getting to know what’s a possible sign of malware means knowing how worms work. This type of software contaminates a device through downloaded files or a network connection before it multiplies and disperses at a rapid rate. Similar to viruses, worms can seriously disturb the operations of a device manifesting in a slower computer speed and data loss.
Trojan Viruses conceal themselves as supportive software programs. But once a user downloads a trojan virus, it can access your data and then modify, block, or delete some of your data at worst. This type of malware is extremely damaging to the performance of any device. Unlike the aforementioned types of malware, a trojan virus is not designed to self-replicate.
This form of malware can run secretly on a computer and transmit the data to a remote user. It does not exactly disarrange a device’s operations; however, it attacks sensitive information that can grant remote access to hackers. Spyware is often used to take financial or personal information. Furthermore, a more specific type of spyware is a keylogger. It records the keys pressed to reveal passwords and sensitive information such as usernames and login details.
A malicious software that gathers data about your computer usage and imposes advertisements is adware. This type of malware infection is not as infectious as the others, but it can prompt system issues. Adware can redirect browsers to unsafe websites, which can draw trojan viruses, spyware, or worms. To put it simply, it’s like a bridge for more dangerous malware to your device.
Another type of malware that gains access to sensitive information is ransomware. It operates within your computer system and encrypts the information, denying you access to your device. You will then receive a demand for financial data (hence the term “ransom”) to retrieve the lost information. Ransomware is a known phishing scam and disguises itself as an unassuming link.
The Fileless Malware is one of the most unique types of computer infection. If you’re trying to find what’s a possible sign of malware, this particular one operates from a victim’s computer memory rather than the files on the hard drive. This makes it harder to detect than typical malware. It also makes the diagnostic process more tedious because the malware becomes untraceable when the host computer resets.
A bot or botnet acts like a program that goes through the internet looking for security lapses to exploit. The hacking is done automatically. This type of malware gains access to a device with the aid of malicious coding. Some cases might see botnets hack devices directly, with cybercriminals remotely controlling from the other end. These can often initiate malware symptoms like DDoS attacks, send phishing emails from your device and record activity on your computer.
Another type of malware that grants cybercriminals access to your devices is the rootkit. This can oftentimes infect without the victims’ knowledge. Since rootkits typically work under the radar, they can hijack or overthrow security software. Since cybercriminals can control your device remotely without your knowledge, this form of malware is likely the most dangerous. It could also live on your device for longer periods because detecting them is a lot more difficult than other malware.
This malicious software specifically targets smartphones and tablets intending to gain access to private data. Although mobile malware behaves differently from traditional computer malware, it’s a growing threat since corporate networks now integrate their mobile phones to work, potentially bringing threats into space.
Why Does Malware Exist?
The reason behind “hackers” creating malware varies. It can be about sabotaging your work routine, making money off the said malware, political statements, or just plain bragging rights.
Although malware cannot physically damage computer hardware network systems, it can steal, encrypt and even delete your data. There are also instances where malicious software alters the core functions of your hardware and even tracks your activity without your permission.
How Do I Get Malware?
When you’re familiar with the signs of malware assault, you should also be aware of the different ways of acquiring them. This saves you from future attacks and computer infections.
Malware can take several channels to reach your device. The two most common ways involved are through connecting to unfamiliar internet sources and email. This means that anytime you’re connected online, you’re vulnerable to attacks.
Malware can attack your computer when you visit hacked and unsafe websites, click on sites serving malicious ads, download infected files, or install programs from unsafe sources. You can also pick up the malware through email or pretty much everything else you download from the web to your device that lacks anti-malware tools.
Malicious applications can hide in the shadows of legitimate applications. Be sure to stick to trusted sources for mobile apps, installing only reputable third-party applications and programs. But of course, these attacks would not work if you did your due diligence. You have to be extra careful when opening email attachments or visiting sites that you don’t recognize. Don’t just click and install something from untrustworthy sources.
We encounter the question “how to tell if my computer has a virus,” and here are some of the ways of picking up malware infections:
- Downloading malicious applications
- Using mobile devices with operating system gaps
- Opening suspicious emails
- Using unsecured Wi-Fi/URLs
- Message phishing
- Fraudulent websites
- Infected USB flash drives
- P2P sharing and torrents
- Fake applications
How to Prevent Malware
The good news here is there are multiple ways of preventing malware. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, you won’t have to experience computer virus symptoms before taking action.
Here are some ways to prevent malware infection:
- Install antivirus software - This is the go-to way to prevent malware. Many people may not be aware that common antivirus software like McAfee, Norton and Kaspersky are essentially useless for the detection or removal of newer malware. A newer generation of malware holds more radical features and codes that allow it to develop inside of your system, thereby dodging detection. Nevertheless, antivirus software remains your first line of defense but is not the only form of malware protection you should put into play. It remains useful for detecting and removing several kinds of malware, so don’t leave it out of the picture just yet.
- Install software updates - Many neglect the benefits of IT services and software updates. Malware often works by exploiting weaknesses in your operating system or software you have installed. While hackers are busy finding security faults and writing malware to penetrate them, cybersecurity professionals are constantly at work to cover up the holes unearthed by hackers. Make sure your device is protected from the latest malware by keeping up with the latest updates frequently.
- Implement encryption and use strong passwords - Passwords are the main targets of hackers so they can break through your system. In fact, this can affect as much as an established IT management network. If you have a simple password, a hacker can bring a password dictionary into action. It’s of paramount importance that you form long and unique passwords for each of your devices and accounts. On top of that, you can make the extra effort to encrypt as much of your computer activity as possible, including files and communications to add another security blanket against malware.
- VPN - Another basic program that protects you from malware attacks is a VPN. This “Virtual Private Network” is a straightforward way of preventing malicious software. In a nutshell, it diverts threats around your network, delivering them to a different location by encrypting all communications and data packets. If they can’t get into your network, they can’t implant malware. Simple but highly effective.
- Ad-Blocker - Since malware is often disguised as pop-up ads, it’s a good idea to install an ad-blocker. Consider downloading this cybersecurity tool that helps fend off malicious advertisements from appearing on your browser.
- Two-factor authentication - This comes in handy if the malware gains access to your login credentials. Biometric security features such as fingerprint scanning and facial recognition build on defense. This demands proof of identity before you can fully access an account. With that, since hackers don’t get access to or in any way replicate your prints or facial features, it protects you from any malware threat.
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