Malicious Software, commonly known as Malware is software that negatively impacts your PC. Malware has been around as long as computers have, while the majority of programs you download or install on your PC are safe, some softwares were created to cause harm to you and your PC. One may ask how can a program cause me harm? Well the malware of itself cannot physically harm you but the design can cause you a lot more harm than just physical.
For instance, there is malware that was designed to steal your information, destroy your files or even worst extract payment from your bank account. Whatever the intent of the Malware’s creator that’s what the effect will be on your or your PC. Persons place malware on people’s PC for many reasons, some do it for fame, others to act as a ransom, and others just to simply cause damage to their target. Much like someone who does vandalism or arson.
Malware comes in many forms, like viruses, spyware, rootkits, ransomware, etc. It is common practice to use viruses and malware interchangeably but a virus is a type of malware. In this article, we will be talking about, how does your PC get malware, what happens when your PC is infected with malicious software, ways not to get it, and how to eliminate it.
How does your PC get Malware?
Unfortunately, Malware is often identified when your PC has already gotten infected. Most times with malicious software, a good question to ask is “What has changed on your PC”. Is there a software you have downloaded or a particular site you have been to that asked you to accept a pop-up?
One might say that they haven’t been on any strange website, and most of the websites that they’ve been to is safe. Whereas that might be the case on the face of it. There are many websites that you click on, maybe just to check out some quick information from Google. But that site you go to just for a few seconds might have malware embedded in it. Your computer might not change in any way but the malware is being installed and running all in the background.
Another one that scammers love to use is a fake warning that comes up on your screen saying ”WARNING - Your Computer is Infected With a Virus, click here, install our software to help you clean it.” What you’re doing at this point is installing the malware on your PC. The scammers are tricking you to install malware, that type of manipulation is called social engineering. Where criminals exploit your natural inclination to trust.
Yet another way one PC can get infected with malware is by opening a file that is infected. It could occur by placing that malware on a USB drive and by using this USB drive you get malware on your PC. This could also be transferred through Emails email is the number one way of getting infected by malicious software. You open up a file sent to you via email and by just accessing that file your PC gets infected by malware. This situation is even more tricky because what if your job requires you to open up files sent to you by strangers? Like an HR department. Where individuals send you their resumes daily. Your responsibility would be to open these files to read their information. All these are ways that one can get infected by malicious software.
What happens when your PC is infected with malicious software?
There are several effects that your PC will experience when you are infected. Some malware is so minor and so barely noticeable that you could be infected for years and not even realize it’s there. There are some variants of malware that are an extra advertisement that shows up at the bottom of your computer screen. You simply close the advert and it stops that program until a later time. That type of malware may not be intrusive but it is consuming ram on your PC it may pop up an advertisement that does not work appropriately or might simply just be bothersome to be closing that advert every once and a while.
Other Malware can delete your documents. For instance, you might have photos you have stored on your PC and then malware get’s installed and deletes all your photos. So you are going on your PC where you normally store photos and when you check there are no photos in that file. So much so that when you do upload photos, after a day or two they simply disappear. That is the sign of malicious software on your PC.
Some malware will start doing what is called ”thrashing the hard drive”. This is done by the program reading your hard drive as hard and fast as it can over and over and over again, reading the same sector over and over again trying to cause a failure on your hard drive. This attack can cause your hard drive to fail or your CPU to burn up. These are the software that was designed to burn up components on your computer, a very aggressive malware.
There is yet another type of malware called “Keyloggers” these are the silent type of malware. They run in the background and record every keystroke, record every key you press on the keyboard, and sends it to a server. Whoever has access to that info can now see when you log in to a particular site and sues that record username and password to enter into your various accounts. Malware can make it seem like you are seeing a fake web page instead of the real one manipulate you to put some information there.
One of the main things that happen when your PC is infected with malware is that your Pc becomes a transmitter. So if you are on a corporate network and that network host 500 PC, it only takes one PC to get corrupted and then every PC on that network can potentially get corrupted because of that one PC.
A popular type of malware these days is called ransomware. When this type of malware affects your PC it takes the form of a ransom. So the program does not delete your files, instead, it encrypts all your data. Now once encrypted you can no longer get access to your data, your data is still there however but to decrypt your data the attacker says to pay them a certain amount to decrypt your files. The reason why this type of Malware is so popular is that attackers can now monetize their malware. All of the other malware and its effects on your PC doesn’t necessarily bring a direct monetary value to them but this one does.
Ways to Avoid Malware?
- Avoid downloading or installing softwares you do not trust. - One way to avoid malware is by not downloading or installing any file that you do not trust. If you are interested in downloading a Microsoft product for instance and there is a website that is not Microsoft offering the said product. You should be extra careful before downloading that particular software.
- Stay away from websites without the Padlock icon - Another way to effectively avoid malware is by not visiting websites that do not have a padlock in your browser’s URL. That padlock icon means that your connection is secure and that the information that you enter into that site is also secure. It also registers the certificate from that website showing the certification path, certification status, and who it has been issued by.
- Pay attention to the UAC - When installing software on your PC, Microsoft has what is called the User Access Control. What this does is create a prompt when any software is about to perform a change on your PC. This prompt then asks you if you would like to perform said change or deny that change from happening.
According to Microsoft, The UAC elevation prompts are color-coded to be app-specific, enabling immediate identification of an application's potential security risk. When an app attempts to run with an administrator's full access token, Windows 10 first analyzes the executable file to determine its publisher. Apps are first separated into three categories based on the file's publisher: Windows 10, publisher verified (signed), and publisher not verified (unsigned). The following diagram illustrates how Windows 10 determines which color elevation prompt to present to the user.
The elevation prompt color-coding is as follows:
Red background with a red shield icon: The app is blocked by Group Policy or is from a publisher that is blocked.
Blue background with a blue and gold shield icon: The application is a Windows 10 administrative app, such as a Control Panel item.
Blue background with a blue shield icon: The application is signed by using Authenticode and is trusted by the local computer.
Yellow background with a yellow shield icon: The application is unsigned or signed but is not yet trusted by the local computer.
- Install an Antivirus Software - An antivirus software acts both in identifying and eliminating malware on your PC. Most antivirus softwares have features that identify malware as it arises. They perform scans in the background or has storage of known malware and as soon as it sees that type of malware being installed it goes ahead and quarantines it.
How to Eliminate Malware?
To eliminate malware revolve around utilizing software with the capability to identify, quarantine, and delete malware. Most times it revolves around an antivirus tool.
Antivirus Software - There are a lot of antivirus softwares out there that do an amazing job in eliminating malware on your PC. According to USNEWS, the best Antivirus software for 2021:
- Trend Micro
- AVG Technologies
Antivirus software protects against these types of threats by performing key tasks like:
- Pinpointing specific files for the detection of malicious software
- Scheduling automatic scans
- Scanning either one file or your entire computer at your discretion
- Deleting malicious codes and software
- Confirming the safety of your computer and other devices
A good antivirus is truly your go-to tool for eliminating malware.
In conclusion, malware has been there for a long time and will continue to be present as long as computers exist. So let’s do all we can to be mindful of what malware is, how we get infected by them, and how to eliminate them.