You are sitting on your couch watching TV and minding your own business, when suddenly, you get five texts in a row from different friends and family members telling you about a weird-looking email they just received from your account. As you go to investigate this odd phenomenon, you are hit with a deluge of pop-up ads on your computer, telling you your dream date is waiting for you and that you may have just won the lottery.
Perils and Pitfalls of Malware
Sadly, these two symptoms — along with a number of other troubling things your computer has been doing lately — are sure signs that you have been hit with malware.
Additional Signs of Trouble
If you have an anti-virus program installed on your computer but it keeps on disabling itself, this is a sure sign of malware. Additional signs to watch for include icons appearing out of nowhere on your desktop, a massive slowdown of your computer and signs that you are using tons of bandwidth — even when you are not.
Where Does Malware Come From, Anyway?
There are a number of ways for malware to infect and start attacking your computer. Malicious advertising, or malvertising, is one common way. Unlike traditional spam attacks that require you to click on an infected link in an email or download a virus-filled program, malvertising attacks are often disguised as ads on websites and can cause your computer to be infected as soon as you click on the ad. Sharing programs with other people can also leave your computer vulnerable to malware, as can downloading free games, videos and screen savers. While not every freebie is infected, enough of them come with malware that they are simply not worth it to install.
Now That I’ve Got It, How Do I Get Rid of It?
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to decrease your chances of a malware infection. Start by installing anti-virus and anti-malware software that will protect your expensive investment at all times, such as McAfee. Then, make sure it is kept up to date. Your program will send you reminders that it is time to update the software; even if you are in the middle of something on your computer take the time to perform these important updates and keep the anti-malware program running efficiently. Next, run regularly scheduled scans to check for problems. Set the anti-malware software to run a scan on a weekly basis and if your computer starts acting in a funky way, manually start a scan at any time.
Another great way to help ensure that you will not be infected by malware is to have a mobile processor that includes hardware-based security features. For example, Snapdragon mobile processors come with the Qualcomm Haven security suite that can detect malware 24/7 and automatically block security breaches. Another effective way to prevent malware attacks is by securing your network — this is especially important if you have computers that connect wirelessly to the printer or internet. Make sure that you have an incredibly strong password and that you change it on a regular basis, and stay away from free or open Wi-Fi at places like coffee shops and airports.
While malware is definitely a common issue, it does not have to be inevitable. By giving these tips a try, you can go back to enjoying that television program safe in the knowledge that your friends will not be receiving weird malware-based emails from you.