Is your machine slowing down to a crawl? Are you constantly getting pop up adverts? Are you getting warned of virus infection(s)? Then your machine is more than likely infected with some sort of malware.

Malware, short for Malicious Software, is a type of software designed to do damage your computer or cause severe inconvenience to the running of your computer. Malware can be a virus, spyware, or other malicious software with the intent of causing damage or inconvenience with your knowledge!

Viruses is Malware which spreads from computer to computer with the intention of causing harm to the file system or indeed the files stored within the file system. Viruses do not need human intervention and can pass silently from machine to machine without any noticing. They can lie dormant for days, weeks or months before activating. Common methods of transfer between machines include e-mail attachments, USB hard drives, key drives, CD-ROM’s and floppy discs.

Spyware and other Malicious Software is software often injected into your machine via unpatched operating systems, internet browsers, applications and device drivers / support websites. Internet Browser toolbars can be a source, as can, what can be described as ‘bad websites’ commonly found on the dark side of the internet. Spyware can monitor keystrokes and internet usage and send this information to web based systems to log passwords, credit card details and web usage patterns. Ironically the technology behind spyware began as a genuine legit tool to target specific adverts (Adware) to websites matched to that users browsing patterns.

Two worrying new breeds of Spyware are infecting machines today:

Scareware as it is becoming known, displays pop ups on your machine simulating Anti-Virus software informing you that your machine is infected with Trojans and other viruses. These then ask you to ‘install’ rogue software promising to clean these fake alerts. Sometimes they won’t even ask and just install in the background themselves and become apparent without your permission. The software then bombards you with fake warnings, popups and alerts telling your machine is severely infected with all sorts of viruses and spyware promising you all will be fixed if you purchase the full version of the software. However, never ever consider purchasing software that has just appeared on your machine. As well as being out of pocket financially, the teams who mastermind these forms of Malware now have your credit card details – more often of which is then passed to criminals for their perusal.

Ransomware – similar to above, however actually causes damage to your data and system until a Ransom is paid. A worrying instance of this is the Crypotlocker Ransomware which started appearing in September 2013. Become infected by this, and your data files are encrypted until a ransom is paid. As of January 2014, there was no fix for this, other than paying the ransom. More information can be found by clicking here. There are enhanced steps that can be undertaken to prevent a Cryptolocker attack so please do contact for more information. The worrying thing about Cryptolocker is it can encrypt files not just on your PC or Laptop but also on any shared network drives via a drive letter.

Stay safe from Malware:

Be very cautious opening e-mail attachments. Who they from? Are you expecting it? Does it appear legitimate?

Small Tick Keep your system and applications up to date

Small Tick Exercise extreme caution surfing the web and clicking links

Small Tick Ensure you do not have full administrator rights surfing the internet

Small Tick Make sure you have a Firewall, Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware software running to protect you.

Small Tick Always ensure you have up to date backups of your important data

However, if it is too late and your machine is infected then your machine may need professional help to assist removing the Malware. Depending on the Malware infestation and the scope of the infection, it may be easier and more importantly safer to wipe the system and start from scratch with a System Re-Install.

Traditionally Apple Macs do not have the same dangers as Windows based systems, however as the Mac gains in popularity again, there are more cases of Malware becoming apparent on the Apple platform, so the same recommendations above should be followed.


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