Malware: An all too familiar blanket term for software and social exploits that destroy our data, steal our passwords, or turn our computers into zombie machines awaiting the bidding of its evil master. If you are connected to the Internet it is your responsibility to prevent the proliferation of malware by understanding the types of viruses and by taking proactive measures to keep your system clean. Only then can we hope to have an Internet void of SPAM, malware and other dangerous code.
Types of Malware
Malware can be broken down into the following classifications. Any malware you find on your computer is dangerous and should be removed immediately.
- Viruses – A computer virus takes control of functions on your computer. It might delete data, try and capture passwords to banks, or harvest other critical information you might have stored on your computer. A virus will often be used to turn a computer into a zombie machine that sends spam emails or performs a DDoS (Distributed Denial or Service) attack on a website.
- Rootkit – A rootkit virus is a virus in complete stealth mode and is very difficult to find and remove. It has privileged access to your computer and can circumvent its detection and removal.
- Spyware – Spyware does what the name implies–it spies on you. It watches what websites you visit, reports back to a central server, and then serves up ads based on your surfing habits. Usually, this is at the cost of dramatic web browsing and computer slowdown.
- Worms – Worms are meant to propagate and infect as many computers they can in a short amount of time. These are often spread via email by sending themselves out to every person in your contact list without your knowledge.
- Trojan Horses – Trojan horse malware invades your computer disguised as a program you have willingly downloaded. These types of viruses are common on file-sharing P2P networks. Once inside your computer, they can introduce other viruses, spyware and worms.
- Phishing – A phishing (fishing) scam is a technique used to get a person–either through email or a website–to input data into fields they believe are legitimate. For example, a phishing link embedded in an email might lead to a website that looks just like Bank of America’s site. When you go to log-in, the page appears to crash or doesn’t load. Meanwhile, someone has just captured your username and password and now has unrestricted access to your bank account.
Tips To Protect Your PC From Malware
It is said that an unprotected PC (a PC without current updates, with no firewall or an antivirus installed) will last less than twenty seconds on the Internet before it becomes infected. If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will. To protect yourself against most malware, you should follow a few basic steps:
- Make sure Automatic Windows Updates are turned on – Turn on Automatic Windows Updates by going to Start>All Programs>Windows Update. In the left pane, click Change settings. Under Important Updates, select Install Updates Automatically (Recommended) from the drop down menu.
- Use a hardware firewall – A router performing Network Address Translation (NAT) is considered a hardware firewall. The outside world only sees the router’s external address, not the computers running behind it. This helps reduce the likelihood a computer will be caught in a random port scan on the Internet.
- Use a software firewall – Your Windows software firewall should be running by default. Confirm this in the security settings located in the Control Panel.
- Run an antivirus – With free antiviruses like Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast!, there is no reason why you should not be running an antivirus on your computer.
- Make sure third party utilities are up to date – A lot of exploits come from Adobe Reader and Java utilities that are not up to date. Right-click these in the taskbar or visit their respective websites to see if there is a newer version available.
If you want to protect yourself, be suspicious of everything. Never open email attachments, never click on links in emails, and be wary about which websites you download from and give your personal information to.
For more tips on how to stay protected and remove viruses, be sure to check out our PCTechBytes Computer Virus Guide.