A computer virus is a program or programming code that infects your computer by self-replicating and infecting files throughout your computers system. There are many forms of computer infections, such as Ransomware, Web Browser Hijacking, Adware, your common Malware programs and much more. Many of these infections try (and in many cases, succeed) to access your personal information, erase data and send mass spam emails to infect other hosts, although it depends from case to case.
Rohan Norris from Norris & Hyde IT has dealt with hundreds of computers and laptops infected with viruses and say it's an easy trap to fall victim to. Many people aren't aware what they're clicking on or downloading is actually malware. Rohan has shared with us what to look out for and how to prevent a computer infection.
Ransomware: Crypto Locker/Wall:
The major variant that is going around right now is the Crypto Locker/Wall which can infect your computer once a spam email has been opened. A common infected email going around right now claim they are from companies like the ATO or postal services stating that your documents are attached. Once the attachment is opened, it will encrypt all of your files and you will be held ransom to pay for the decryption key. Rohan explains that once your files have been encrypted, you will notice a pop-up on your desktop explaining exactly what has happened and requesting payment in the form of 'bitcoins'. Once payment is received, they will supposedly supply a decryption key to unlock all your data.
The best way to prevent this happening is not to open any emails from an unknown sender and to be very cautious when opening attachments or clicking on URL links. The most common giveaway is when the attachments are zipped (.zip). Even if the email says that there is a document/PDF/Excel attached, pay close attention to the title of the attachment. Because chances are, it will report as something similar to ".doc.zip". As soon as the attachment is opened, all files on your computer will then be encrypted.
Web Browser Hijacking:
If your usual search engine is Google for example, and you suddenly notice that it has changed to Ask.com, Delta Search or even Yahoo, it’s very likely that your normal web browser has been hijacked and all your web search results won’t be legitimate. Many of these search results show a large amount of advertising before showing anything legitimate. For example, if you’re searching for a dog bed online, the first 5-10 results will be advertisements that have been integrated with your hijacked search engine and all 5-10 advertisements will be infected with malware.
This is a very easy virus to fall victim to, especially when downloading or updating software. Java is a good example. Although Java is a legitimate and safe program to use, you can infect your computer once the installation is complete. Once installed, you’ll be presented with several ‘tick boxes’, which many of us do not read. The most common tick box to cause web browser hijacking is “do you want to change your search/home page over to Ask.com?”. These boxes are often already ticked, so if you don’t uncheck boxes like this, your normal web page will be hijacked and you may fall victim to advertisements that contain malware. In order to prevent this from happening, pay close attention to what you’re downloading or updating and make sure you read what boxes you are ticking or accepting.
- As mentioned before with Crypto Locker/Wall, do not open emails with unusual subjects, even from your friends. For example, if you get an email and the subject is “take a look at this it will make you LOL” from an old friend or work mate, it's more than likely malware and it’s very easy to identify. Sadly, once a computer is infected, it will spread through to other hosts via spamming emails. And chances are, the person doesn’t even know their computer is infected. So if you receive any emails from someone who you don’t normally talk to on a regular basis or the subject seems ‘off’, do not open any link or attachments they have sent. The best thing you can do is reply and let the person know you have received their email and their computer is infected. It is safe to open and reply to the email, but do not open any attachments or click on any links.
- Another giveaway that your computer is infected with malware is an unusual or excessive amount of toolbars in your Internet Browser that you have never seen or used before. This can be caused through clicking or downloading fake advertisements and software. Once your computer is infected with this type of malware, it has the ability to manipulate your search engine and add additional toolbars that can do more harm to your computer if clicked on.
- If an antivirus alert that you have never seen before pops up on your computer, do not click on it. A classic line is “Warning—your computer is infected! They may cause critical system failure. Click here to get available software”. This is a virus that leads you into thinking your computer is infected and to perform a ‘scan check’, which is actually an infected file. It is relatively easy to recognise a fake virus alert when it pops up out of the blue and you have never seen it before.
Unfortunately, some computer infections cause devastating effects and can wipe months even years' worth of important data off your system, access your personal information or worse, completely wipe your computer. Fortunately, Norris & Hyde IT have several types of antivirus software available to protect your computer.
Avast Free Antivirus: Avast is an antivirus/spyware protection program that continuously updates its database of virus definitions to maximise protection for Windows, Android and Apple MacOS. Avast is free for 12 months for home users and they also have paid subscriptions for greater protection.
Trend Micro Security: Trend Micro Security provides comprehensive, multiple device privacy protection against malware and blocks sites trying to trick you into downloading harmful content. This program is perfect for families where multiple devices are used under one roof. Trend Micro Security protects both Android and iOS Mobile Devices. The cost for Trend Micro Security ranges from $49.95 to $199.90 per year, depending on how many devices you want protected.
Trend Micro Worry Free Business Security: This software provides complete user protection designed for businesses and protects employees. Trend Micro Worry Free protects everyone in the office and safeguards your email, web activity, file sharing and more. Trend Micro Worry Free pricing is dependent on the end users computer systems, ie. Server configuration and total amount of computers.
If you believe your computer is infected with malware, speak to Rohan and the team at Norris & Hyde IT who provide fast on-site service to anywhere throughout WA. Norris & Hyde IT can supply and install antivirus software to prevent infections, as well as professional backup systems for recovery purposes if the worst case scenario does happen.
- Norris & Hyde are open Monday – Friday from 8:00am – 5:00pm with after hours support available 24/7.
- They’re located at 36 Chapman Road, Geraldton.
- Phone (08) 9964 6448