How Viruses and Malware Get on Your Computer
Data Attacks are Easier than You Think
Despite our best efforts, some things slip through the security and onto our machines. Sometimes we notice right away, other times programs just run in the background quietly. Most people call all these “bugs” on their computer viruses. While some are, most of them are malware.
No matter what you call them, they are unwanted programs. Prevention is the best method of not getting infected, and knowing where these programs are coming from is the key to knowing how to prevent them. Here are the top 5 ways malware gets on your computer.
One of the fastest ways to destroy your computer is to blindly click on links and attachments you receive via email. These are usually disguised as something important, or intriguing, to lure you in. For instance, an email that looks like it came from PayPal that says you’ve received $850. The link encourages you to open the attached “receipt” for details, but the receipt is nothing but a malware file.
Alternatively, phishing scams will try to lure you to a fake website, one that looks very much like the legitimate version, so you enter your username and password. The program, and ultimately the hackers, now have access to your account. One that was rampant years ago was a site that looked just like Myspace, but it was rnyspace – dot – com; a quick glance in the address bar it looks like myspace, but it’s not.
Every website you visit downloads a small piece of information onto your computer. These “cookies” are so that the next time you visit the page will load faster since the basic details are saved to your computer (or device).
Sites run by those bent on stealing your information have methods so that instead of just the cookies being downloaded, their malicious programs are also downloaded. It all runs in the background so you don’t even notice it until your computer starts giving you popups while running slowly.
Viruses and malware spread rapidly through networked computers. When one computer on the network is infected, the malicious programs can rapidly make their way through the network.
Often computer networks are protected from outside attacks, but once the bugs have gotten in there is little to stop the spread. A good security program can slow or sometimes stop the progression, but few networks have that program.
Bundled with Legitimate Downloads
Malware can be considered any program that you don’t want on your computer. Often these programs come bundled with other programs. For instance, toolbars on your Chrome or Firefox web browser can be considered Malware. They don’t exactly hurt the computer, but they slow it down.
There are programs you can download that make life easier. Let’s suppose you have 10,000 pictures that are big files (5mb or so). That’s a lot of space on the computer, and you want to upload them all to an online photo site. Uploading 50,000mb (50gb) would take a while, so you download a bulk resize to reduce them to 1mb each. The program may come bundled with other programs that automatically install causing irritation.
Aside from blindly downloading files from unknown email sources, file sharing is the fastest way to infect your computer. You hop onto a torrent website, select a bunch of songs that you want to download, and let it run. Most of those will actually be pirated songs (or movies, or programs, or whatever), but some will have malware with them. You turn around and host the songs, and you host the malware for other people to download as well.
On occasion, that malware turns out to be viruses called ransomware, a much more serious problem. Last year the WannaCry ransomeware swept across the nation. It encrypted your files, and there was no effective way to decrypt them (the hackers said $300 worth of bitcoin would release them, but even if you paid there’s no telling if you would get your files back or the virus wouldn’t come back). Security experts were able to kill the ransomware, but millions of computers were infected.
What if I Download a Virus?
We know how to prevent this junk from getting on our computers: don’t download or blindly follow email links; don’t file share; don’t visit shady websites. But what if you have already downloaded viruses, malware, or ransomware?
First, download Malwarebytes. This free program will wipe out the majority of any stupid little programs on your computer. Even if you don’t have any infections, run this program on occasion to ensure you’re clean.
Second, if Malwarebytes can’t get rid of the problem, disconnect from the internet and bring the computer to iDoctor. Our trained computer technicians can access the computer and manually delete the files that are causing problems.
Third, take more care in the future! Accidents happen, especially with kids in the house (Free Minecraft skins, sure I’ll click a file called totallynotaviruswinkwink.exe). When they do, come to the best computer repair shop in Billings. We have two locations to serve you; one on the west end and one in the heights.