What you need to know about malware
Stay safe online by following a few simple tips
Did you know 16
million households between 2015 and 2017 experienced serious
problems with their home computers because of malware? Online
threats are something you should be aware of if you regularly
browse the web, send emails, shop online, or use online banking
platforms. You can stay safe by following a few simple tips.
Most common types of malware
It helps to understand how malware works. Some malicious programs
will wreak havoc on your computer, while others run quietly in the
background. Here are the most common
types of malware you're likely to encounter:
- Viruses. Viruses are the most common
online threat you'll run into. They are malicious programs that
can infect software installed on your computer, delete files and
prevent software or operating systems (OS) from running properly.
- Trojan horses. This type can download
and install unwanted programs, steal your login credentials, and
spread to other computers.
- Rootkit. A rootkit is intended to hide
malicious activity on your computer. It may be programs running
in the background or malicious activities such as a person
remotely gaining access to your files.
- Adware. This is malware that displays
unwanted and disruptive ads. Some adware is designed to trick you
into paying to make the pop-ups go away.
- Spyware. Spyware can track your
activities. Some spyware will simply keep track of which sites
you visit, while other kinds monitor what you type and record
your login credentials.
- Ransomware. This is a malware category
that's particularly malicious since it can lock you out of your
files and trick you into paying to regain access.
How malware infects your computer
Malware uses various techniques to infiltrate your OS and
files. Understanding how a malware infection happens will help you
In many cases, malware infects a computer because a user
clicked on a malicious download link. You might inadvertently click
on one if you attempt to download movies or video games illegally.
And some websites can even offer software downloads that seem
legitimate but are bundled with malware.
Another malware technique is to send malicious programs as
email attachments that you open. Your computer can also become
infected if you accept pop-ups from a malicious site or if you use an
unsecured Wi-Fi network. It's also possible to infect a computer by
adding malicious code to a legitimate webpage.
Common signs a computer is infected
Some malware infections are easy to notice, but many malicious
programs run quietly in the background. Here are some common signs of
- You keep seeing pop-ups with ads or messages that look like
- Your antivirus program detected an issue.
- Your computer is slow or crashes, or there's a high amount
of hard drive activity even when you aren't using your computer.
- Programs seem to open and close by themselves.
- You notice new software or toolbars installed on your
- There are new files on your computer.
- Your browser seems to redirect you automatically to
malicious URLs when you browse the web.
- Your contacts receive phishing emails or suspicious attached
files from your email address.
- You notice suspicious activity on one of your online
What to do if your computer is
infected with malware
The best thing to do is take preventative measures to protect
your home computer. You should have an antivirus program installed
and enable automatic updates for it. Also, use a firewall to prevent
malicious programs from connecting to the internet.
Browser extensions can keep you safe online by identifying
malicious sites and blocking harmful downloads. Create regular
backups of your data, and always ask yourself whether a site, link,
or email is safe before clicking on it.
If your computer is infected with malware, try these steps:
- Don't take unnecessary risks, and avoid shopping online or
logging into your online accounts.
- Disconnect your computer from the internet to prevent
malware from spreading to other devices on your home network.
- Many sites offer malware removal tools, but be aware that
many of them aren't legitimate and can result in additional malware
- Boot up your computer in Safe Mode and run an antivirus
scan. Delete the infected files your antivirus software finds.
- Look for unwanted software or toolbars installed on your
computer and uninstall them.
- Use the Windows
System File Checker to find missing or damaged system files.
- If you can't get rid of malware, use the system recovery
options on your OS. You may also have to use a repair disc and data
backup to reload your entire OS and files.
You can prevent malware infections by using an antivirus
program and always being careful with the links you click on.