Here at Wilson Computer Support we see it all the time; a computer has been infected and rendered a large and expensive paperweight. Malware is a clear threat to all users and their computers, phones, and other devices that utilize software to function. It comes in various forms including viruses, worms, spyware, adware, trojans and more. In order to more effectively protect against and identify these threats, it is necessary to understand what they are and how they operate.
Malware is a shorthand term for malicious software. This could be any software program that is created with ill intent. Programs that are sent via e-mail as attachments like “.exe” or “.pdf” files are often some kind of spyware or adware. Trojans, for instance, will mask themselves in legitimate looking websites while transmitting spyware onto your computer. This is a scam we have seen often: a user will navigate the web and a pop-up will appear telling them that urgent action is needed or they will lose data, become infected, etc. the page will urge them to download some software or call some number and once this happens and access has been granted, the system will be held hostage until the user has paid a ransom, often upwards of $500 or more.
Paying a ransom could get the data back and usage of your system returned but, it is important to keep in mind the type of element you are dealing with. This kind of attack is run by criminals. There is never any guarantee that once your money is in the hands of these thieves that they will follow through and release your data back to you. In fact, once you give them credit card information, they can use it for anything. Recognizing that Microsoft, a computer service, or any legitimate company will never try to contact you, through e-mail, or by phone, and ask for passwords or credit card info, is the first step in preventing the loss of your data, time, and money.
Another avenue of attack for many virus makers involves computers that have not been updated. Ensuring that you are using the most up-to-date operating system and have automatic updates enabled will go a long way to plugging the metaphorical security holes in your computing ship. The vast majority of Windows updates are security related and often contain patches that prevent older malicious code from running or achieving any of its programmed objectives. One of the main questions we receive at Wilson Computer Support regards the need to update to Windows 10. We understand that there are growing pains associated with every Windows release however, it is well worth the slight changes in Windows in order to have a little more peace of mind knowing that you will receive the newest security updates automatically.
Knowing how Malware can infect your computer is only part of the battle. It is important to understand that there will always be shady individuals creating malicious software that targets user’s sensitive information for monetary gain. You can rest assured that if, despite your most vigilant and best efforts, malware takes hold of your system, we will be ready to remove, repair, and clean your device of every trace of infection.