Cybercrime 101: Recognizing Malware

The word malware means mysterious sounds, blank screens, and crashing computers to many people. What they often don’t realize is the subtle nature of cybercrime. Malware creators don’t want their victims to find their malicious software: it can’t do its damaging and lucrative work if they discover it too quickly. Thankfully, anyone can learn how to recognize malware in all its forms and avoid becoming the next victim of cybercrime.  If you are experiencing any of the below symptoms on your IT network, contact us immediately!

Sudden Poor Performance

Most computer owners experience performance issues because they either install too many programs or run software that uses too much of the computer’s resources. Malware, however, will run silently as a background program and use up your computer’s processing power, which can lead to several problems if your machine can’t handle the extra load. If your computer suddenly struggles to run web pages and programs as well as it did before, you probably have malware.

New, Unwanted Toolbars

Many programs install toolbars, but malware versions are almost impossible to remove. If an unexpected toolbar appears that you can’t uninstall, or if it keeps reappearing after you delete it, you probably have malware somewhere on your computer.

Unexplained Pop-ups

Malware creators love pop-ups, though they aren’t as common today as they were a few years ago. Although being bombarded with mysterious pop-ups is annoying enough, malware ads will sometimes link to websites that will install more malicious software on your computer. Thankfully, it is easy to recognize malicious pop-ups since they commonly appear when no internet browser is open.

Scary Security Warnings

Installing fake security programs is one popular method criminals use to extract money from their victims. Malware security programs usually appear with no warning; they typically come with downloads from file sharing sites and display scary warnings about fake problems. These programs will scan your computer much more quickly than safe software since they’re not looking for anything, and there’s nothing to find.

You Lose Access To Your Computer

Some malware programs work by holding computers hostage. They will restrict access in some way until their victim pays a ransom. Corrupting personal files and permanently blocking the computer screen with large, immovable warning signs are their favorite techniques. The images they display often claim to represent a law enforcement agency, like the FBI, and will accuse the victim of committing a cybercrime. They will then ask the victim to pay a fine. Of course, paying them off is no guarantee that they will release your property.

Your Online Contacts Receive Erratic Messages

Scammers sometimes use spamming email and social media contacts to deceive their victims. If your contacts claim they are receiving messages from you that you haven’t sent, your computer is either infected with malware or a criminal has your account details. Malware often hides in messages sent this way and will activate if someone opens an infected attachment or navigates to a malicious website.

Malware messages share a few characteristics and learning them is the best way to avoid becoming a victim. Oddly enough, some messages will warn you that your computer has malware on it, and will install software when you open an attachment or navigate to their website to fix the problem. Others will imitate transaction confirmations or software updates from bogus companies. Some even hack email accounts so they can spam your inbox with messages from your contacts that don’t match their usual tone or writing style.

Malware isn’t merely an annoyance. Not only can it destroy your files, but it sometimes even leads to identity theft and extortion. That is why it is so important that you understand malware’s warning signs so you can react quickly and limit the damage.

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