Keeping your Computer Safe from Viruses and Malware
What's Out There
- Recently, more computers are becoming infected by fradulent software that uses visual elements to look like a part of the Windows operating system. Most use scare tactics to get you to open your wallet.
- Some viruses are written specifically to harvest confidential information such as bank account information, logins and passwords.
- Many viruses have the ability to automatically update themselves.
Computer security is only effective if it's in place before you need it
Computer security, similar to other security measures, is only effective if it is in place before you need it. If your computer is infected with a virus, the built-in security measures could be compromised by the virus itself and leave your computer vulnerable to other forms of attack, or even make it easier for other viruses to infect your computer. Ensuring that your computer is patched with the latest updates and has comprehensive security software is the first step in protecting your computer, or even your entire network.
Getting Serious About Security
Even having the latest updates to your operating system, software, and security applications, your computer still may be infected with viruses. Even the best security software cannot protect against all new and unknown threats. Just as your antivirus is constantly updated, malware producers update their viruses. In these cases, the responsibility is in the hands of the end user.
The More Common Infection Entry Points
Modern viruses spread in multiple ways. The primary source is the internet, however once a computer is infected, it can spread the virus to other computers via email, removable hard drive and flash drives.
If your computer has been diagnosed with a virus, please also provide any removable storage you have to us for cleaning. If you are running the removal tools yourself, be sure to check your removable media as well.
How to avoid infection
- Stay away from non-essential websites to avoid infections, especially on a business PC. We see malware infections that have originated from poisoned websites (legitimate websites that were compromised) as well as advertisements on social networking websites such as Myspace and Facebook, however much more typically on websites offering streaming video. Malware can even been injected into file downloads. A good rule of thumb is don't download software you don't need. Many other types of malicious software enter your computer from programs that offer trivial things like screensavers, different mouse pointers, or a simple way to add "smileys" to emails and IM chat.
- A good rule of thumb is to think before clicking. A quick checkup (Google search) on the website you intend to download from can give you a better idea of whether or not to trust their software. If you perform online banking, or handle sensitive information on your computer, can you entrust that information to a website in exchange for a new screensaver?
- Never give out information to parties that do not need it.
- If you receive an email claiming a security problem, do not click any links in the email. Visit the site directly by typing the address into your web browser.
- Do not give out your passwords to anyone, and do not enter passwords for one site on another site.
- Do not download "video codecs" directly from video service websites. Many video websites are actually hoax sites that make you download a trojan.
What to do if you are infected
The first thing to do is to disconnect your computer from the internet. Many forms of malware disrupt security measures and expose your computer for easy infection from other viruses. DO NOT pay money for this software if it prompts you. Your money will be lost, and there is a possibility of identity theft. Have your computer checked by a professional technician. It is likely after infecting your computer with one form of malware that you now have other malware on your system. ACM Technicians are skilled at removing all types of malware that may be present on your system.
Not sure if you are infected?
Some malware will be very obvious - your web browser doesn't go to the site you told it to go to, and legitimate sites suddenly have pop-ups where they didn't before. However, most malware is not immediately obvious. If your computer used to run fast but now it is running slower, it is not because your system is "just getting old". The computer is overloaded with the amount of software that is running on it. If you do not have many icons in your system tray (the small icons on the bottom right of your screen), and you haven't installed much software, it is likely that your computer has hidden malware draining your system resources.
How serious can malware be?
Malware can be fairly benign - in trade for a "free" program, a company watches your web activity and uses it to create marketing plans. However, all malware contributes risk of your personal information becoming available to anyone on the internet. Typically, malware or spyware is not designed with your security in mind. Malware can also be used to find out your online banking information as well as enough personal information to steal your identity. Make sure your computer is properly updated as much as possible, and if your computer acts "odd", have it checked for problems.
How much does it cost to have my computer checked?
ACM Computers will diagnose your computer in our store for a $35 minimum diagnostic charge. After diagnosis, our technician will contact you with the findings and assessment. A fixed quote proposal will be presented to you in order to remedy the problems found. Based on the condition of your computer, we will make recommendations that are the most cost effective solution for you.
Is Your Computer Protected?
Even the best anti-virus and anti-malware software will not be able to protect your computer if it is not configured correctly and kept up-to-date. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are configured to scan in realtime, when threats present themselves. In addition, scheduled scans should be set up for in-depth full system checks on a recurring basis. Always keep your software up to date for both software versions and definition files.
Not all anti-malware programs provide full coverage
Some anti-malware applications only cover certain aspects of malware, such as spyware only or viruses only. Make sure you have full coverage - if you only have software for spyware or viruses, you could end up with infections very easily.
All anti-malware programs have their limitations
Having a good anti-malware software installed is only one measure of protection. If you frequently download and install software, your computer is much more vulnerable to malware infections. The best practice is to install only the software that you need. Screensavers, mouse cursor changers, smileys and other similar software are common carriers of malicious malware.