Ever felt like your system is slowing down or creeping to work, then beware! You may fall victim to and been infected by malware. A slow system or any weird behavior is a visible sign of a terrible malware infestation lurking through your system. But we need to define what a Malware is? It is a term that refers to various types of cybersecurity risks, such as viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, ransomware, and so on. Always keep in mind that the behavior of each malware is different, they all share a common goal, that is to make your system vulnerable, and the severity differs in each case and the malware infection. The symptoms of a malware attack are quite discrete but needs good judgment and experience on the behavior of malware, when compared to a virus and more. Then and only if you know how to detect them, will you be able to determine how to remove them without losing too much in the process, as they can cause damage by the time you realize it is in your system.
Whatever type of antivirus software you install, there is a possibility that you will miss detecting a significant amount of malware, and you should be mindful that most malware goes undetected by antivirus and may need specialized malware removers. As soon as professional malware writers design a new malware, the botnet ecosystem self-updates immediately after detecting the existing malware. Even though your anti malware software is robust, it remains a step behind the malware. No antivirus or antimalware product remains fully accurate over an entire year. That demands a well-trained mind, but overall you need to train staff to notice these irregularities to help to act and react the soonest.
What are the Popular Signs that Your System Is Infected?
- Frequent Pop-up Ads
Keep note of how often you see a pop-up. If you have adware in your system, you will experience many pop-ups, possibly loaded with links to malicious websites. Though there are ads for legitimate products, it is important to differentiate them from unauthentic business products appearing on your screen. The ideal way forward to protect yourself is to have an adware protector within your browser extensions to help, it is not always accurate, but you need to train and add sites that you feel are fishy.
- Redirected Browser
A Trojan or virus in your system may redirect you to a website unfamiliar to you. Simple signs are, trying to reach your favorite search engine and being redirected to a completely different website or a different search engine. Sometimes the redirection is not noticed unless you specifically observe the link. In this type of attack, the foremost thing to do is to check browser settings and disable or delete any extensions that you have not installed explicitly.
- Antivirus Which Is Not Legitimate
Isn’t it scary learning about “Fake antivirus”? It makes you feel insecure, especially when you realize that the antivirus software that you believed was there to protect your system from the virus is the reason behind the virus on your system. Such fake antivirus appears to work faster than legitimate software and throws out excess vulnerabilities than actual ones, pretending that it is legitimate and effective.
- Unethical Posts on Your Social Media
If the malware focuses on your social media accounts, it will likely redirect you to a fake social media page. It might even post links from malicious websites on your wall, inviting other vulnerable victims to click and download malicious content.
- Ransom Demands
Some extreme malware programs block access to your system or data for a ransom amount commonly known as Ransomware. Ransomware threats encrypt your data and demand ransom money to decrypt them, but all payments are always through Bitcoins so no one can trace the perpetrator. The notorious WannaCry attack, which is considered to be the worst ransomware attack in history, crippled computers of over 150 countries and billions of dollars of loss worldwide. The ransomware demanded US$300 in Bitcoin from victims to unlock the company’s computers . Antivirus apps and security tools should protect against most ransomware, but it is preferred to have a robust security plan with dedicated ransomware protection software. The main point again is to train staff to recognize offers or clicking where they should not be and where the logic dictates that there is nothing that will help them. But users are always easy to get to, and the outcomes are pretty obvious. But then a good recent backup can be a solution. It depends whether you ever tested the recovery before you do so.
Malware Attack—How Does Malware Get into Your System?
Malware is installed on any system unintentionally. It is mainly due to certain negligent acts that the malware finds its way in your computer or network. Navigating and opening emails of known or even unknown origin can bring us down. We always need to navigate in all precautions. “Cross the road when you are sure you are secure and safe.”
Free Software Programs
There is no “free” software other than the truly legitimate one. Most of the freeware manufacturing companies in partnership with other companies bundle the additional application with the download as a part of their marketing strategy. The add-on software, however, may carry spyware, adware, or another type of destructive malware that can spread vulnerabilities in the system and beyond.
File Sharing Services
Downloading media or content through torrents or any other means, which is not original, is an illegal act. Files that users download via peer-to-peer sharing would have traveled across multiple computers that may not be secure. The files may carry a lot of infected malware, apart from those, malware manufacturers set up fake files on such torrent platforms for the user to download. The most common are movies and TV series, which are easy targets to package a good gift.
Scareware is the type of malware that masquerades as security software. The pop-up with messages about a “virus on the computer” flashes on the screen asking you to click a link to begin the cleaning process. These messages are designed to scare you into clicking on the phishing link.
Malware also comes hidden on the firmware of the USB stick or removable media drives, which makes it hard to detect. If the malware already exists on any computer or device, connecting a USB will infect the disk and transfer it to the next system connected to it. The same malware may also infect CDs or DVDs and spread it to other systems. The disaster is that some malware act and have the characteristics of a worm and spread on the networks as well, so any means is a good means.
No Security Software
Security software is an essential tool for your system, especially when it is connected to the Internet and to the company network itself. The lack of antivirus and other robust security tools will attract all types of malware to your system. If the security software on your system is not updated, there is a possibility that the malware lurking on the Internet might get into the system due to the incompetence of your security program.
Some Upfront Tips to Prevent Malware from Infecting Your System
a) Install a Good Antivirus Software
Antivirus is a must. Though a default software will benefit, it is always advisable to have an effective and robust antivirus and also to ensure that you have an antimalware software that can deal with the latest malware. This should be the first step to having a malware-free system.
b) Update Your Antivirus and Operating System
The manufacturers of operating systems and other software programs release updates and patches for flaws in the software or to update the software’s capacity to prevent new malware or security holes. Antivirus updates are also released to make the security software more efficient towards the latest malware identified. Ensure, also, that your antimalware/antivirus definitions are updated as often as possible.
c) Schedule Regular Scanning
This appears to be the simplest way to prevent a malware attack, but many of us often forget to do it. It is important to scan your system for any malicious activity regularly. It is difficult to work on the system while the scan runs in the background, it is advisable to schedule the scan during the night or when you are away from the system. Make sure that it doesn’t shut off or move into hibernation mode during scanning. In many corporate offices, they schedule daily or nightly automatic or during the day scans to happen, because it can be a good precaution.
d) Secure Your Network
Your Internet connection or Wi-Fi connection should be secured with a strong password. Use WPA or WPA2 encryption and not WEP as expert hackers can bypass it. It is also a good idea to hide your SSID and create another SSID for your guest with a different password and may also be a good idea to have a different separate network subnet if it is purely surfing and nothing to do with your main network. Take all precautions not to broadcast open Wi-Fi connection to anyone.
e) Don’t Access Open Wi-Fi
When at the airport, hotel, coffee shop, library, and so on, do not use a free, open, or non-encrypted Wi-Fi network. Such open Wi-Fi networks can be used by any cybercriminal to send malicious content and make your device vulnerable. When you do need to connect enable a firewall blocker to track any incoming traffic if at all possible. Also, ensure that you do not have any shared folders or guest access accounts that may be vulnerable to access.
f) Stay Aware of Phishing Attacks
You should be careful while accessing emails from unknown senders or while downloading files from malicious websites. Hover on the email attachment or link in the email to understand the authenticity of the source. Before downloading any file from the Internet, an FTP site, a file sharing service, an email, and so on, ensure to scan it for virus content. Sometimes, these can come from legitimate sources but they are already compromised, and thus, you are a name on the contact list.
g) Backup Your Files
Ideally, you should maintain a backup of your file at three places—on the system where you create them, on a different device, and off-site. When you store your data on an external hard disk, store the disk securely in a safe deposit box. Also, be careful while sharing personal information online on social media and message boards. When someone is working on your system, do not leave it unattended as it may cause data loss too. A piece of advice here is always to be sure to test data recovery to be sure in the event of a need to recover you can do so; thus, testing them from time to time is important. If you can backup but not recover, then you have lost everything important.
Malware is a serious concern for your systems and networks. Many organizations are considering hiring exclusive services to protect and defend their networks from malware attacks. Ethical hacking helps to identify and reach malware and take appropriate measures to remove them. EC-Council offers Certified Ethical Hacking (C|EH) program that gives you the skills to identify the vulnerabilities in target systems and use the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker but lawfully and legitimately.