Monday, October 28, 2013

Is my PC infected with malware?

Malware, or malicious software, is a general term which includes viruses, worms, trojan horses, rootkits, spywares, key loggers and more. It is designed to disrupt computer operations, steal sensitive data, and gain access to private computer networks. The first few malwares were created just for pranks.

But since early 2000, hackers began using malwares for profit. The cost of malware can financially (and psychologically) be devastating.

Cyber-criminals can use the stolen data to get your money directly or just sell your data to the black market to make it difficult, or impossible, for authorities to trace them. This might mean losing your hard earned money, your identity being stolen, or paying excessive credit card bills at the end of the month.

For businesses, it might mean the cost of mitigation, recovery and loss of profit and revenue. Knowing when you’re infected is as important as knowing how to fix and prevent it. Below are a few general symptoms that may indicate that your PC is infected with malware.

Common Symptoms
Performance-wise, you’ll notice that your computer runs slower than usual. It freezes, hangs or become unresponsive. At times, it will restart by itself for no valid reason.

You’ll see new icons on your desktop or applications that you do not recognize. You might be unable to access important tools such as the control panel, task manager, registry editor or command prompt. In terms of web connectivity, you may receive the error “Internet Explorer could not display the page” when attempting to access certain websites.

Users may encounter even more troubling symptoms.

Your web browser freezes, hangs, or is unresponsive and the browser’s default home page is changed. When navigating, you get redirected to other web pages and you get a lot of annoying pop-up messages.

You’ll see new toolbars on your browser that you know you did not download. The most obvious malware infection in your email is when your contacts receive an email from you asking them to open an attachment or to click on a malicious link.

Scan Your System
It’s really quite difficult to tell if your PC is infected with malware or if the symptoms are caused by other legitimate reasons such as software or hardware incompatibilities or system instability.

The only way to be sure is to scan your system for malware. Security experts recommend that you use the ESET Online Scanner because of its comprehensive malware detection, very low false positive, one-click activation and decent scan speed.

The Future of Malware Attacks
Malware attacks will be more sophisticated, more difficult to detect and mitigate, and the potential financial damage it will cause to individuals and businesses will be greater. Malware developers will continue to take advantage of the vulnerabilities found in Bring-Your-Own-Devices (BYOD) and cloud computing given the increasing popularity of BYOD and migration from the traditional computing environment to cloud resources.
Malware will focus more on evasion than propagation and attackers will have the patience, resources and knowledge to carry out sustained and sophisticated attacks.

Protecting Yourself
Here are steps to secure your PC from malware:

1. Buy an antivirus program. We sell and recommend ESET Smart Security at ESET provides a complete, comprehensive and in-depth anti-malware solution, with an integrated personal firewall, social media scanner and anti-theft.

2. Keep your system updated. For Windows, it is best to set your “Windows update” to run automatically. Updates fix bugs which are being used by malicious people to hack into your system and install malwares.

3. Click through only to trusted sites and links. When searching online, stay away from suspicious sites. Do not just open a link posted in your social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Always hover your cursor on the link to check if the URL address is the correct address.

4. Don’t open suspicious email attachments. Malwares are usually hidden in attachments and opening the attachment will install the malware into your PC.

5. Restrict or prohibit Peer-to-Peer (P2P) applications. P2P is notorious in distributing malware between PCs. It opens a lot of vulnerabilities and entry points to your network.


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