Malware is any malicious software that is designed to infiltrate a system and achieve something not in interests of the owner. This can include everything from damaging the system and shutting it down to stealing data and bandwidth or monitoring the user’s activity. Viruses are just one of many different types of malware that you should watch out for. Here are some more types you should watch out for:
- Adware: Adware is a relatively innocuous type of malware that focuses on making money rather than harming your computer. This aggressive advertising supported software displays banner advertisements on websites and application windows.
- Spyware: Spyware is made to spy on you. This malware hides in the background, monitoring your computer usage and Internet browsing activity. It can harvest passwords, banking details and emails, and can even perform keystroke logging or change security settings. All of the information it gathers is sent to a remote user. It can also download and install other malicious applications without your permission.
- Virus: Much like a biological virus, a computer virus is a type of malware that spreads from host to host and reproducing itself. Attached to files or programs, it can be spread through Internet downloads, email, social media, or text messages. However, a virus cannot infect a computer autonomously, it needs a user to run the program it is attached to. The harm caused by viruses ranges from minor annoyances like desktop wallpaper alterations to major system crashes or the complete loss of data.
- Worm: In comparison to viruses, worms can seem quite innocent, as they themselves do not actually cause any damage to a system. A worm’s entire purpose is to copy itself and spread across a local drive or network.
- Trojan: Trojan malware got its name from the Trojan horse of Greek legend. Trojans infiltrate computers by hiding in innocent-looking programs like various applications, games, or even video or music files. Once they’re in, they can create backdoors for hackers to get into your system and collect your data or even completely lock you out of your computer.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is one of the most serious cyber threats due to its ability to spread quickly and cause expensive damage. Ransomware is designed to make a profit. Once the malware infects a machine through a system vulnerability, it encrypts all of the data, locking the user out. Then, it asks the victim to pay a ransom to decrypt the files.
How can you tell if you have Malware? The first step to responding to an attack is recognizing the effects. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be difficult to do, as some types of malware are designed to work imperceptibly, at least until they’ve done their damage.
Your device runs slowly: A common symptom of malware is when your computer or smartphone suddenly starts to run slower than usual. However, there are many other things that could slow down your device, so you’ll have to follow the process of elimination to see why your device is taking its time processing your requests. If you aren’t running too many apps or programs and your device isn’t overloaded with files but it still runs slowly, you may be compromised.
Your internet connection is sluggish: Many different types of malware can seize your online bandwidth for their own purposes. Some use your device to help launch DDoS attacks, while others can use your device as a platform to replicate themselves and infect even more users to harvest personal data. However, just like with CPU speed, there are plenty of other issues that could cause this symptom. Once you’ve ruled out a bad internet connection, background downloads, and anything else that could eat up your bandwidth, check your speed again.
Suspicious pop-ups and notifications: If you browse without a pop-up blocker (which you really shouldn’t do), encountering the occasional annoying pop-up online shouldn’t be much of a surprise. If you start getting them while working offline, however, you’re in trouble. In the best-case scenario, you’ve simply downloaded a disreputable piece of software that uses invasive tactics to get you to pay up. However, such unexpected pop-ups can be a sign that your computer is infected with malware. Ironically, these pop-ups often claim to be warnings that you’ve been infected with a virus, and that the only way to get rid of it is to buy a piece of bogus antivirus software provided by the hacker. Pop-ups on websites that have never had them before can also be an indication of malicious software (but before you panic, you may want to ask the website admin if they’ve recently started to allow pop-ups).
Your device crashes: Some more dangerous types of malware can gain root access to your device and manipulate the most basic elements of its system. When these changes clash with other device processes, they may crash your device (whether intentionally or not). If your device suddenly starts crashing frequently, especially if you recently downloaded a new app or file, there’s a chance that your computer is under attack.
Your friends receive messages from you that you didn’t send: Some types of malware spread by stealing your identity and sending messages on your behalf. If your friends and family start to respond to suspicious messages that you know you didn’t send, that’s a sure sign that your device has been infected. These messages might send files that will spread the attack if opened or can ask your friends to transfer money to bank accounts owned by hackers.
Apps or programs you didn’t download: Sometimes, legitimate programs come bundled with other apps or software that you might inadvertently install without knowing. These aren’t always a problem, but they’re certainly a potential threat. The appearance of unrecognized icons on your desktop or your phone’s home screen will be your first clue. If you find an icon you didn’t install, don’t open it – simply try to figure out whether it’s something you need and whether or not you can safely uninstall it. These can also often show up as additional unwanted toolbars or browser extensions that you never downloaded.
You can’t access your files and receive a ransom message: Most malware sneaks its way onto your device. Ransomware, on the other hand, comes in loud and proud. Ransomware is designed to encrypt the victim’s files, making them completely inaccessible. The hackers will then send a ransom message demanding payment for the victim to access the files. Whether or not you pay, you are completely at the hacker’s mercy. Dealing with a ransomware attack can be difficult, but there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.
Your system stops listening to your commands: In the interest of self-preservation, some malware will try to block access to system settings or tools that could help you get rid of it. These can be your Windows task manager, your Mac activity monitor, your built-in security scanner, or just your regular system settings or control panel. If you find that your settings have been changed without your permission or your computer is trying to restrict you from accessing certain system administration tools, this could be a strong indication that your computer is infected.
You get redirected while browsing: When you browse the internet, get into the habit of keeping your eyes on the URL bar, especially when the page is loading. If either the website you’re visiting or the computer you’re using are infected, malware can redirect you to suspicious websites and ads. Sometimes, it can even impersonate the website you were visiting and collect any information you enter. The next time you check a sensitive account (like your Paypal account, for example), make sure you know the correct URL. If the root URL changes to something you don’t recognize while using it, watch out! That could mean that you’re being redirected to a malicious site. Plus, a very common setting that malware often changes is your browser’s home address. If your home address when you open your browser looks suspicious, that’s a dead giveaway.
Your security programs have been disabled: You should always have your security programs enabled. These include built-in firewalls, malware detectors, and other software that you might have installed from a reputable source or that came standard with your device. Either way, if you suddenly discover that they’ve been disabled, you need to find out why.
Phone bill discrepancies: Some phone specific malware acts by quietly sending SMS messages to expensive private numbers that charge exorbitant sums. If you receive an unusually high phone bill, review your call and SMS histories or contact your service provider to see if your phone might’ve been infiltrated.
If you suspect that you have Malware on any of your devices, contact BrickHost today to fix and prevent any further threats.