It seems that people are not aware of the benefits of using malware protection. Many people have heard about computer threats but possess a rather vague understanding of what they are and what types of network menaces there are in general. Once upon a time, you could often hear the word “virus;” today, the scary term “malware” pops up now and then, and completely blurred ideas about online threats cover all these uncertainties like a dome. There is some truth in this vagueness since computer security experts often argue about the denomination of threats and malware themselves.
In the context of network threats, many users still manage to neglect suggestions to protect their computers with security software. Choosing an antivirus solution among the many presented on the market, installing it, configuring it, and eventually tolerating a part of system resources spent on its work seems overkill and not worth the effort. We can only remind that safety measures always seem excessive until they stand in good stead.
In the current article, we will help you sort out one thing: what happens to a computer infected with malware and what is the point of using an antivirus.
What is malware and what does it do?
First of all, you should understand what malware is. “Malware” is a portmanteau for “malicious software;” it is a name for harmful programs. Malware is one of many types of threats. There are also scripts, which are not executable files, and there are other network-based threats, such as phishing, that are not directly related to programs that infect the victim’s computer.
Now let us see what malware does from the standpoint of the attacker. The list of damages types below may not be exhaustive, but it summarizes the harm hackers usually inflict by malware nowadays and the reason for such their activities.
Hackers use the spyware (a category of malware) to carry out data thefts. These can be completely different programs, united by only one thing – their spy function. For example, both a keylogger, a program that records all user’s keystrokes, and a spying rogue browser, in terms of their goals, constitute the same group – spyware. These types of programs differ in their abilities. Some simply transfer your browsing history to third parties, others, as already mentioned, can record keystrokes, and others are generally able to intercept your traffic.
All of the above-mentioned actions require the CPU’s background work. So, in addition to the actual harm brought to you, spyware slows down your computer.
The worst thing that can happen to the user from the spyware attack is identity theft and its grave consequences. Stolen financial credentials are also a danger of losing all the money from the account.
There are special programs either injected into systems as Trojans (disguised as something else) or downloaded with the help of other Trojans (so-called downloaders) whose sole purpose is to direct the resources of the infected device to mining cryptocurrency (for other people, understandably.) Since mining coins is a cryptographic work, the miner malware delegates this task to the victim’s computer, and the CPU performs the part of the work that it can handle.
The visible consequences of such invasion are a running speed decrease on the infected machine and the Internet connection becoming slower.
Involvement in a Botnet
Botnets are networks of computers with specific malware installed on them that allows a remote hacker to command them all at once and thereby benefit from their quantity. The entire army of computers under hackers’ control is a different story compared to one machine hacked. It allows a new and much broader scope of action. For example, DDoS attacks involving thousands of bots would be simply impossible to pull off without a botnet technology. The same is true for automatic comment posting used in politics widely. Another activity of bots can be the further spreading of the botnet. A large botnet nowadays can amount to tens of millions of infected machines.
As for the users of the infected machines, all the botnet activities take place unbeknownst to them. The only tangible effect is the overloaded CPU and mysterious Internet traffic.
Adware is a wide range of software that includes overt malware and so-called potentially unwanted applications (PUPs.) Adware, if malicious, turns your browsing experience into something like the Las Vegas Strip: bright flashing banners pop up all the time, blocking the view of the webpage you are trying to read. Moreover, the adware can insert ad links into the plain text on the web pages you view to trigger your clicking. And some adware can even affect your offline work – the banners can appear just anywhere within the OS, not only in the browser.
Many types of programs fall into the adware category according to their function. These can be easy-to-remove browser extensions, rogue browsers, various “handy” applications, etc. However, some adware executables don’t show themselves and appear as some undistinguished process in your Task Manager.
Adware effects are self-evident, and they encourage sanitizing the computer. But you must clear the adware if you were unlucky to catch it. Its presence is fraught with other malware infections.
Encryption of data files
One of the nastiest malware types is ransomware. After this program lands on the victim’s device, it encrypts all data files of preset types and leaves a ransom note to the victim. The encoded files get an additional extension, and access to them becomes impossible. The ransom note reads how and how much the victims should transfer to the racketeers in cryptocurrency to get their files back. Cybercriminals usually send their victim a decryption key after they get paid so that their next victims pay as well and still trust the scheme.
Ransomware attacks are the first viable profit-generating malware-involving scheme. Annual profits of the racketeers amount to millions of dollars. Nowadays, ransomware is rampant.
Taking control over the system
One class of malware is considered extremely dangerous because, if employed correctly, it allows hackers to do virtually anything with the system and control it as if they were its administrators. These programs are called rootkits, and their most threatening capacity is to establish a backdoor, a detour of access limitations, allowing a hacker to control the system by giving commands from its infected core. The damage from an attack using such means is limited only to the attackers’ goals.
What happens when your device gets infected by malware?
Let us briefly summarize the symptoms of a malware infection regardless of the particular threat you might be facing. If you have read the previous section attentively, you can even guess some malware types by symptoms alone.
- Slow PC and crashing programs are expectable effects of many malware kinds. If a program (or several of them) works in a background unbeknownst to you, especially if it is a heavy resource-sucking process like crypto-currency mining, your PC’s productivity will be tangibly affected by it.
- Lack of storage – some malicious infections imply taking your HDD space for their purposes, leaving not enough for your everyday operations.
- Slow Internet. Even if CPU productivity remains sufficient, your Internet connection will feel less effective. Of course! Many malware types generate their own traffic that uses your bandwidth.
- Spam reports. If your email and social media acquaintances begin complaining that you send them spam via direct messages or email, be sure that your account hijacking most likely happened with the help of malware.
- Advertising pop-ups and applications you never installed are typical and intended consequences of adware infestation. Besides the danger of clicking on adware-fetched banners, aren’t they just inconvenient?
- Weird extensions added to data files. Well, here we are. It’s ransomware. All encrypted files are inaccessible, and you need to pay if you want them back. So much for carelessness on the Internet.
How to avoid getting infected by malware?
- Stay vigilant! And make sure your personnel is acquainted with the basic security rules if we talk about a workgroup. A lot of things depend upon users themselves. Hackers often introduce malware into systems via human vulnerabilities like inattentiveness and gullibility. Social engineering is an integral part of cyber warfare. For example, the implementation of phishing attacks does not require malware at all. However, infection of the targeted machine with malware may well be a goal of a phishing attack.
- Do not click on unknown email attachments, links, or banners. At least think twice or even thrice before you do. The easiest way for malware to get onto a victim’s machine is via scripts, a malicious code fitted into files or websites users voluntarily download and access. You just have to realize whence the threat comes – from deceptive emails, messages, and advertising.
- Update your operating system regularly. Not only will updates keep the OS in-built security ready to face the latest threats, but they will also stop hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities that often occur in between update procedures. Antivirus software, by the way, also works better when the system is up-to-date.
- Use 2-factor authentication wherever it is possible. Google, for example, being aware of the threat of social-engineered hacker attacks, made the 2FA mandatory. The feature simply makes you confirm your identity on your other device when accessing an online account.
- Install a trustworthy antivirus program. Everything said above is valid, and it works. But it is simply unrealistic to hold out on vigilance alone. All the precautions we have listed give the desired result only in cooperation with a reliable security program. Further, we will reveal how anti-malware software works and what it does.
How can antivirus help?
We were going to share the ideas on benefits of using malware protection. But it seems we were So what does an antivirus do? Let’s take Gridinsoft Malicious Software Removal as an example. This program offers triple protection.
First comes the so-called On-Run protection. The program registers everything “new” that appears on your machine, and before any incoming file could harm, the program scans it. If the program recognizes the file as malicious or unwanted, it immediately sends the item to quarantine. Further, the user can decide what to do with it – delete or restore.
Another function of anti-malware is Internet protection. It blocks hazardous websites and warns you about suspicious ones. Websites are recognized as dangerous after the detection of malicious scripts in them, while the absence of an SSL certificate is a ground for considering them suspicious. These blocks and warnings are overridable but very handy in most cases.
The most time-consuming but necessary feature in case of infection is a deep scan. You can choose options for scanning: the more encompassing scan will take more time, but the probability of malware eradication will be higher. Certain types of malware can be detected and removed only with the help of such deep scanning.
Combining different virus detection methods in its architecture, the Gridinsoft product demonstrates versatility and effectiveness. It performs well on home and corporate machines. You can use this software as a primary security system for your device or as an additional antivirus scanner. With its efficacy, the solution is cost-effective.
As for the benefits of using antivirus in general, they are undeniable. The danger seems far-fetched before the first contact with its source. And cybersecurity is no exception. Nevertheless, your doubts will vanish at the first encounter with any dangerous Trojan, hopefully, removed by a security program.