Do you know enough about computer viruses and other types of nasty malware that can invade your system?
In this series of articles we’ll explain the different types of infection, how to guard against them, and what to do if you fall victim to them.
To start with I’ll tell you about computer viruses and the other types of malware:
- Those that causes damage to your computer software and precious files, and
- Those that compromise your security by stealing your personal information.
If you use the internet or email without protection, it’s almost impossible not to be infected.. There were more than 317 million new pieces of Malware created last in 2014 – that’s nearly one million a day. It’s hard to comprehend that many isn’t’ it? For more information please read Nearly 1 million new malware threats released every day by CNN Money.
What is a Computer Virus and What is Malware?
A virus is just one type of Malware. The word Malware is short for Malicious Software (even though it sounds like bad dress sense!).
Types of Malware
Those needing anti-virus programs protect you:
We use and recommend Avast Internet Security.
Those needing anti-malware software to protect you:
Protect yourself by installing Malware protection such as the premium version of Malwarebytes and Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit. The free version of Malwarebytes will only clean infections but won’t protect you from new malware. Anti-exploit protects from malware that doesn’t yet have a cure.
My own Story
I’ve always been really careful because of working online and all the photos, family videos and files I store. For most of that time I didn’t catch a virus or anything damaging. I just used free anti-virus programs and occasionally ran the free version of Malwarebytes.
Then disaster struck. I visited a website that trashed my computer. David managed to get everything back for me but it took him over a week to reformat and restore all my files using special software. I immediately upgraded to Avast Internet Security and that has kept me protected.
But I wasn’t safe from other malicious Malware. I discovered two charges on my credit card for $2000 each. Some nasty person from overseas had bought currency using my credit card! Thankfully my credit card company reimbursed me but it took a few months to get it back. Now I use Malwarebytes Premium.
About Computer Viruses
A virus is a type of malicious software that works by copying itself and attaching to programs, your data, or even the boot sector of your hard drive. Just like the flu, or other type of biological virus that infects host cells, computer viruses infect different areas and come with different symptoms:
- Slow down your computer – this is often the first sign that something is wrong.
- Damage or completely destroy some or all of your data files – documents, photos, videos ….
- Stop programs from working.
- Make your disks unreadable so you lose everything on there.
- Wipe hard drives.
If a virus isn’t removed it can keep on spreading and causing more damage. A reliable, up-to-date, anti-virus program is vital to help protect you.
Unlike a virus worms don’t need something to attach to. Instead they are stand alone malicious computer programs which replicate themselves. They spread from network to network by themselves. For example, to spread a virus by email you’d need to attach an infected file. Worms can read your email addresses and send messages out by themselves, at the same time infecting the receiving computer.
Worms cause various types of damage.
- They can take up too much bandwidth and system memory and make your computer really slow.
- Some are designed to send out your documents by email.
- They can allow malicious users to remotely take control of your computer.
- Deleting files and destroying information.
- Some just perform annoying functions such as changing your desktop background or icons.
Make sure you have your computer’s firewall always turned on and good, always up-to-date, anti-virus software installed.
Like the name suggests, Spyware is used to spy on your computer and your online activities to find personal details including passwords. credit card numbers and other valuable personal data. Some install “keyloggers” which monitor every keystroke you make, or tracking cookies, to gather information about you.
Certain types of spyware are obvious and you know that you have a problem. There’s the sort that take over your browser home page, alter other computer settings, or divert you to sites that may infect you with other types of Malware. Others install adware, causing annoying pop-ups, some dangerous if clicked on. Adware can seriously slow down your computer.
Unfortunately, the type of Spyware that tracks such things as your buying habits and interests is now mainstream and we give permission for it to happen. It’s not malicious or damaging, to you or your machine, but is an invasion of privacy. Have you noticed Google publishing ads relating to searches you’ve made or Facebook showing you sponsored ads based on your interests? This can be classed as spying.
Normal anti-virus programs do not protect you from Spyware.
If all this wasn’t worrying enough, a Trojan (short for Trojan Horse) is a computer program that allows unauthorized remote access to your machine. They resemble legitimate programs so we can unwittingly download and install them thinking they are of use to us. As well as by download from the web they can be sent by email as attachments or disguised as something like a harmless looking form.
Once installed, Trojans, leave your computer, and your personal information, open to all sorts of harm.
- Stealing passwords and login information. Stealing your banking login details is a favorite!
- Taking control of instant messaging and email accounts.
- Stealing your email addresses to send out emails to your contacts.
- Taking control of your computer so it can be used for illegal activities.
- Monitoring what you type through keyloggers.
- Disabling firewalls, anti-virus software and other security programs, leaving your system wide open to attack.
- Damaging data and programs. These days this practice is increasingly used as Ransomware. This is where you are asked to pay money to regain access to your files.
- They can install other types of malicious software.
- When installed on mobile phones they can dial premium numbers leading to huge bills.
In our next article we’ll talk of ways to protect your computer and how to get rid of malware if you are infected.