The increasing number of Internet users around the globe, provides greater opportunities for cyber criminals to take advantage of our information systems. Today we are dependent on the online and cloud environment and we are experiencing a massive growth in malware and cybercriminal attacks all around the internet universe. The bottom-line is that malware affect us all.
There are some simple steps you can do right now that can tremendously improve your information system security and reduce the chances of a major malware infection on your computer system.
What is malware?
Malware (short for “malicious software”) is any program or file that is harmful to a computer user. Thus, malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, and spyware. Malware authors are always looking for new ways to infect your computer. Following the simple tips below can help you stay protected.
How to detect if your computer is infected with malware?
Knowing exactly what is running on a computer is critical to determine what shouldn’t be. Detecting malware might be as simple as reading a message on the screen, but some malware goes undetected.
The following are some symptoms that might indicate a malware infection:
· The system suddenly, and for no apparent reason, slows down its response time to commands.
· The computer stops responding or locks up frequently.
· The computer crashes and then restarts every few minutes.
· The computer restarts on its own.
· The computer experiences a sudden and sometimes dramatic decrease of free space.
· The size of some files increases.
· Files cannot be accessed or are suddenly erased with no warning.
· Disks or disk drives are inaccessible.
· An attachment that was recently opened has a double extension, such as a .jpg, .vbs, .gif, or .exe extension.
· The system does not boot up.
· There are unusual graphics and messages.
· System or data files disappear or become fragmented.
· There are unexplained and repeated maintenance repairs.
· Unusual error messages appear.
· Menus and dialog boxes are distorted.
· New icons, which are not associated with any new programs, appear on the desktop.
· Antivirus program is disabled for no reason or cannot be restarted.
· When performing an Internet search, the Web browser visits a strange site.
· The user is unable to stop the excessive popup windows that appear without cause.
· The user receives a lot of bounced back email.
· There is evidence that emails are being sent without the user’s knowledge.
· Unusual and unexpected toolbars appear in the system’s Web browser.
What are some of the carriers of malwares?
· Unknown or unchecked application software
· Infected websites
· Banner ads
· Software or media employees bring to work
· Files downloaded from the Internet
· Infected software from vendors and suppliers
· Uncontrolled and shared program applications
· Demonstration software
· Freeware and shareware files
· Email attachments
How to reduce the risk of malware?
There are several ways you can reduce the risk of malware on your computer. It is not possible for any antivirus system to guarantee 100 % elimination of the risk of malware attacks. However, it is possible to reduce your risk of infection by following some best practice strategies.
The following measures can help avoid infection from a malicious program:
· Use anti-malware software to scan all incoming email messages and files.
· Regularly update virus definitions in anti-malware programs.
· Use precaution when opening emails from acquaintances.
· Do not open email attachments unless they are from trusted sources.
· Only download files from reputable sources.
· Regularly update the operating system.
· Regularly update the latest security patches available for the operating system, browser, and email programs.
· Ensure that there is a clean boot disk to facilitate testing with antivirus software.
· Use a firewall and keep it turned on.
· Consider testing all computer software on an isolated system before loading it.
· In a network environment, do not place untested programs on the server.
· Secure the computer from unauthorized access from external threats such as hackers and crashers.
· Keep backup copies of production data files and computer software in a secure location.
· Scan pre-formatted storage devices before using them.
· Consider preventing the system from booting with a removable storage device; this might prevent accidental infection.
· Establish corporate policies and an employee education program to inform employees of how malware is introduced and what to do if malware is suspected.
· Encourage employees to protect their home systems as well. Many malware infections result from employees bringing infected storage devices or files from home.