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We all know and use plenty of software in our day-to-day activities. Microsoft Office, the Adobe creative suite, Google Chrome, and QuickBooks are examples of programs we use to improve our business lives, increase efficiency, and get our work done. Some types of software, however, have a sinister purpose.
Malicious software, “Malware” in the tech world, are programs specifically designed by cybercriminals to attack computers, steal data, and cripple businesses. Common examples of Malware are covert cryptocurrency miners, key loggers, and ransomware. Each of these has the capacity to cause severe damage to your computers, your business, or both! When dealing with Malware, there are three important strategies for protecting yourself:
1. Avoiding Malware
The most effective way to deal with Malware is to never have it at all! While there are times Malware can be difficult to avoid, there are some simple ways to identify malicious programs and stop them from being installed. When trying to identify Malware, keep in mind the most common attack vectors: email attachments and free downloads.
Email is a critical part of our everyday communications, but it can also be incredibly dangerous. When reading emails, never open or preview attachments from senders you don’t recognize. Additionally, if a sender you do know sends an attachment you weren’t expecting you should always verify they really meant to send it. A quick message or call can save you the pain of getting hit with Malware.
For more information and tips on evaluating emails, check out our blog on phishing.
Like everything in life, and especially on the internet, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. There is a near infinite number of scams offering free downloadable content, expensive programs, and rewards for winning lotteries you didn’t enter. You should always be extremely critical of anything being offered for free, especially if you didn’t ask for it or it costs money somewhere else. The free template, program, or brochure could actually be a malicious program waiting to attack your computer.
2. Detecting Malware
Knowing how to avoid Malware is great, but what happens when our computers are infected? Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, there are some common signs a computer is infected with Malware. If you begin to see these symptoms, it may be a sign to start paying more attention to your computer:
- Unusual slowness or issues with functionality
- Programs you didn’t click on open automatically
- Your saved application preferences change (Example: usually your internet links open in Chrome but now they’ve moved to a different program you don’t recognize)
- Unusual behavior like mouse clicks not working, keys having different effects, or seeing flashing Command Line windows appearing and closing
- Command Line being open in the background programs. This is usually detected through the Task Manager.
The most common signs are unusual slowness and odd computer behavior. If you see these things, start investigating or working with your IT team immediately to ensure your computer is clean. But how do you ensure your computer is clean?
3. Dealing with Malware
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely, 100%, confirm a computer is clean. There are, however, several steps you can take to ensure your computer is as secure as possible.
Remote Monitoring and Maintenance
Remote Monitoring and Maintenance (RMM) systems are the first line of defense for both detecting and dealing with Malware. A good RMM system will monitor your computer’s performance and detect unusual behavior. If anything unusual is undetected, like decreased performance or erratic behavior, the IT team managing your RMM system will be alerted and have critical information to help investigate and resolve the Malware issue. RMM is a crucial tool to have in your security arsenal!
Antivirus is a powerful tool to prevent Malware from making it onto your computer and removing any malicious programs already installed. It is always recommended to have a strong, behavioral antivirus installed on your computer. If you think you may have Malware, the first step to detecting it is using an antivirus to run through security scans on your machine. These scans are typically called ‘Deep’ or ‘Full’ but the name changes depending on the program. Whatever the program, an effective antivirus will be able to detect and remove malicious programs and content.
If RMM and antivirus systems can’t resolve the issue, a computer rebuild is the last recourse for computer security. This is absolutely a scorched earth tactic as a true rebuild requires all the data on the computer to be fully erased. While this can sound scary, a good IT package will include backups for your computer’s data to ensure rebuilds and other necessary security measures can be performed without data loss.
While there is no way to guarantee a computer is clean of viruses and Malware, a full rebuild is the ‘Kills 99.99% of germs’ version of computer security.
Looking for Security?
The world of cybersecurity is always growing more complex. IT concerns like Malware, cybercriminals, and data breach events seem to be becoming more frequent. Even tools like RMM systems and antiviruses can be near impossible to navigate on your own. A strong IT provider will fill the gaps in your security platform, train your staff to avoid threats like Malware and Phishing, as well as support you in the event of a breach.
When you need security, you need Strategy. If you’re worried about your business, we’d love to provide a free IT consultation. We can detect issues in your businesses’ defenses, work with you to build a technology strategy, and help protect your business against cybercrime. If you’re interested, visit our contact page and let’s talk!