byMichaelM-BBY03-31-201708:52 AM - edited 02-27-201803:33 PM
Don’t be a Fool this April Fool’s Day! Every year our computers and smart devices are subject to an ever-growing number of online threats, and your own knowledge is a crucial part of protecting yourself. Here we’ll define the common types of Malware (Malicious Software) you may encounter online, and how you can better protect yourself.
What is a Virus?
A computer virus is a malicious program designed to spread from computer to computer. Commonly viruses will corrupt or delete data from your computer, or hijack other programs to spread itself to other systems.
What is a Worm?
A worm is a specific type of Virus. They differ in that they don’t require outside action to spread or activate. These types of viruses can spread more easily from machine to machine and can be used in many different ways, including giving unauthorized remote access to your computer to someone else.
What is a Trojan?
A Trojan is a program used to disguise a virus making it harder to detect. Trojans are commonly encountered as free downloadable software that promises to do something useful, in an attempt to trick unsuspecting users into downloading and running them. Once activated, the hidden virus is released to carry out its malicious intent.
What is Junkware?
Junkware is a general term for free junk programs that aren’t Trojans, but may be unwanted or cause harm to your system. They are commonly encountered as toolbars, shopping or coupon programs, and small programs that can be bundled in with legitimate software. The biggest threat from Junkware comes from their ability to funnel in more Junkware over time through pop-ups and other means. This commonly results in computers running extremely slowly as they’re bogged down by large amounts of Junkware all trying to run simultaneously.
What is Spyware?
Like the name suggests, Spyware is used for spying on a machine. Spyware is commonly used in an attempt to steal personal information like passwords, credit card numbers, or other details to be sent back to its creators.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is one of the most intrusive types of malware your system can be infected with. Like the name suggests, Ransomware will hold your computer ransom. It will often disguise its-self as a warning from government or law enforcement agencies, asking you to pay a sum of money to regain control of your computer. This type is malware is never from a legitimate party and is always a scam. Paying the demanded ransom in no way guarantees access will be returned to you, and can often lead to further requests for money.
In the case of Ransomware off the shelf security software may not be enough to remove the infection, and usually requires a professional servicing. Organizations like Geek Squad do have the skills and tools to remove the above-mentioned threats in most cases, though especially with Ransomware, there is never a guarantee that your personal data will be recoverable.
How do I defend against these threats?
The first, and best line of defense against all the threats described above is you. Being vigilant and mindful of what you’re doing, where you are, and what you’re clicking on is the best thing you can do to prevent an infection from ever happening in the first place. If you receive a message from someone you don’t know that includes an attachment, see a strange looking ad or message on a website promising something too good to be true, or are prompted to run or download an unrecognized program, don’t click on or open it. Aside from your own vigilance, here are a few other things you can do to better protect yourself.
Update your software:
Performing security updates for common software like your Operating System, Java, Flash, and others is another key area where many people can improve their defenses. Next time your device notifies you an update is available, do it.
Unfortunately, this can be a double-edged sword. Encountering pop-ups or banners on websites that disguise themselves to look like official updates for common software is a favorite tactic for spreading viruses and malware. This again comes back to being vigilant, and mindful of what you’re clicking on. If it’s suspicious or looks off, it probably is.
Install Security Software:
Security software comes in a wide variety of flavors from numerous companies. Simple Anti-Virus programs scan your system for infection and attempt to remove them. Security Suites are collections of programs that not only include anti-virus software, but other tools that help secure your system in other ways. This software can actively monitor your system in an effort to prevent an infection from ever happening in the first place.
While there are some legitimately good free options out there for Anti-Virus software, Security Suites usually have an associated annual fee, but will offer a much greater level of protection. It’s also critical to keep whatever security software you have updated, as new attacks and infections are discovered daily.
The need for security software isn’t just isolated to Windows anymore either. As they have grown in popularity, Apple computers and smart devices like phones and tablets have also become targets. Many major security companies now offer anti-virus and security software for these platforms, and Best Buy now includes security subscriptions with every Computer and Tablet sold.
Use a Firewall:
A Firewall is a program or physical piece of hardware used to filter and block access to a system. Every copy of Windows comes with a basic Firewall built in, which is enabled by default. Many Security Suites will also include a more robust Firewall as part of its software collection, which can provide better protection than what your computer came with.
With this knowledge, you should be better equipped to protect yourself, your private information, and your devices online. However, if you have any questions please our friendly and helpful Community by posting on the Computers and Tablets Board, or Schedule an Appointment with your local Geek Squad.