Since most malicious programs are designed to hide themselves, detecting their existence is not always easy. However, there are a few surefire signs that you have been infected:
▪ You start getting swamped with pop-up ads that seem to come from nowhere and constantly interrupt your use of the computer.
▪ Your computer is unstable, sluggish, locks up, or crashes frequently.
▪ Your web browser’s home page changes on its own and you cannot modify the settings. You
may also see toolbars on your web browser that you did not set up.
▪ You get a second or third web browser popping up behind your main browser that you
didn’t open or request.
▪ Mysterious files suddenly start appearing.
▪ Your CD drawer starts opening and closing by itself.
▪ You get constant runtime errors in MS Outlook/Outlook Express.
▪ You find emails in your “Sent Items” folder that you didn’t send.
▪ Some of your files are moved or deleted or the icons on your desktop or toolbars are blank
If you are experiencing one or more of the above when using your computer, you are infected. You should seek help from a senior computer technician. Before I talk about getting rid of it, let me share with you 4 costly misconceptions about spyware, malware, hackers, and other threats that you will also need to know…
The Four Most Costly Misconceptions About Spyware, Malware, And Other Computer Threats
#1: Spyware and Malware is easy to remove.
Some spyware and malware CAN be easily removed using a program such as Spybot’s Search & Destroy (you can download it for free at: www.safer-networking.org) or Ad-Aware (you can download it at www.lavasoftusa.com/support/download).
However, not all malicious programs can be removed – or even detected – using the above software. Many programs integrate so deeply into the operating system that it takes a skilled technician several hours to fully diagnose and remove the malicious program. In some extreme cases, we have had no alternative, but to wipe the hard disk clean by deleting all of the files on it and re-installing the operating system.
Obviously, this is NOT an ideal situation and we do everything within our power to avoid it. Unfortunately, there are some malicious programs that are so intelligent that there is simply no other way of removing them.
Of course, you can use Spybot or Ad-Aware as a first attempt at cleaning your machine; however, if you continue to notice that your computer runs slow, if you continue to get crippling pop-ups, or any other of the tell-tale signs discussed earlier, you will need to seek the help of an experienced computer technician.
#2: It is my computer’s fault that I continue to get attacked by spyware, malware, and viruses.
In all cases, malware, spyware, and viruses are a result of some action taken by the user (you or a family member that uses your computer). Remember, cybercriminals are incredibly clever and gain access to your computer via some of the most innocent and common activities you are performing; that is why it SEEMS as though it is your computer’s fault.
For example, many of the clients we see simply downloaded an emoticon software program. Emoticons are the smiley faces and action characters that you see at the bottom of many people’s e-mails. In doing so they also (unknowingly) downloaded a payload of spyware and malware and before they knew it, could no longer use their computer due to the instability and pop-ups.
Other deadly programs to avoid are free “enhanced” web browsers, screen savers, and just about any “cute” programs you come across that are free to download. Always read the terms and conditions before downloading ANY program to look for clauses that allow them (the software vendor) to install spyware programs on your computer.
Installing programs is not the only way a hacker or malware program can access your computer. If you do not have the most up-to-date security patches and virus definitions installed on your computer, hackers can access your PC through a banner ad on the web that you accidentally clicked on or through an e-mail attachment that you opened.
Just recently, hackers have even been able to figure out ways to install malicious programs on your computer via your Internet Explorer web browser EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T CLICK ON ANYTHING OR DOWNLOAD A PROGRAM. Microsoft is constantly providing patches to their operating system software and all it takes is one missed update to leave you completely vulnerable.
Finally, you should COMPLETELY AVOID any and all peer-to-peer file-sharing networks such as KaZaa. These sites are the absolute WORST online activities you can participate in for your computer’s health because they are pure breeding grounds for hackers, spyware, malware, and other malicious attacks.
#3: If my computer is working fine right now, I don’t need to perform maintenance on it.
This is probably one of the biggest and most deadly misconceptions that most computer users fall victim to. Computers are just like cars. If you don’t change the oil, change the filter, rotate the tires, flush the transmission, and perform other regular maintenance on your car, it will eventually break down and cost you FAR MORE to repair than the cost of the basic maintenance.
There are certain maintenance checks that need to be done daily (like virus updates and spam filtering), weekly (like system backups and a spyware sweep), and monthly or quarterly like checking for and installing security patches and updates, disk defrag, spyware detection and removal, checking the surge suppressor and the integrity of the hard drive, and so on.
#4: The firewall and security tools provided in the Microsoft Operating System are all the maintenance and protection I need.
Again, this is a terrible misconception. Microsoft does NOT include ALL of the security features to protect your data from viruses, hackers, and data loss or prevent your PC from running slowly.
Lack of system maintenance is the NUMBER ONE reason most people end up losing valuable files and incurring heavy computer repair bills. Megabite offers a system maintenance program called User Freedom. Come in or call today to find out more information. 904-430-0350
Categorised in: Computer Viruses
This post was written by Pam Lokker