With the holiday season approaching (yes, I know it’s July) scammers come out in full force to take advantage of the millions of people spending their hard-earned money online. They have many tricks up their sleeves and are relentless in their pursuit to persuade you that their intentions are good. Let’s examine some of the tactics they use as well as good practice techniques on how to avoid infecting your computer with malware.
- Sending a malicious email – This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. A scammer will send out massive amounts of email to as many targets that they can. This email will typically contain a malicious attachment that will infect your computer if it is executed, or it will contain a link that routes to a malicious website if it is clicked. Simply trash the email and ignore it to prevent a possible infection.
- Scare tactics – You may be casually browsing the internet one day when you see a pop-up window that claims you have been infected with a virus or another form of malware. It will usually have a link to download software that will remove the ‘threat’ that is already on your machine. They are trying to trick you into thinking that your computer is already infected (which it’s probably not) and their ‘anti-virus’ software is actually malware itself! This one is easy to avoid;don’t install the software!
- Installing malware alongside a legitimate utility – You need to be very careful when installing any piece of software on your computer. Many times, free software utilities will have the option of installing other software alongside them during the initial installation. This can include toolbars for your web browser, audio players, cursor icons, just about anything really. Even though the utility you are installing may be legitimate, these add-on programs can still be malicious in some way. A good rule of thumb to prevent this is to uncheck the boxes next to the additional software.
Despite being the internet malware-avoiding guru that you now are, scammers can still get the best of you. What are the signs that malware is already installed on your computer? What do you do to get rid of it for good?
- Your computer is much slower than normal – Sure, it seems like our machines are constantly getting slower day by day. However, if you notice that your computer is much slower than it used to be, there is a great chance it’s infected.
- You see many more pop-up advertisements – If you can’t browse the internet for more than 30 seconds without seeing a pop-up ad, you probably have an infection of some kind. This isn’t limited to pop-up ads either. Another symptom is random hyperlinks over common words on websites (like ‘computer’) that can link to a malicious site.
- You get a list of the same sites when you do a search – This occurs when you go to a search engine such as Google and do a search for something. You will get the same strange websites listed in the return of your search.
- The default page of your browser has changed – If your homepage is different and you did not change it, you likely have an infection.
Alright, just admit it, you think you have some malware on your computer. What do you do to get rid of it for good? There are some great, free utilities that can do this for you.