Picture this: It’s a humid Saturday morning in June. You crack the window and sit down at your computer with a cup of coffee. Ahh, that extra two hours of sleep felt wonderful. After pressing your laptop’s power button, you wait what seems like forever for it to start up. When it finally loads, you notice a strange icon on your desktop. Interesting – you don’t remember putting that there.
Your first stop is a favorite website, one you use to catch up on local news. For some reason, you can’t connect. Frustration starts to creep in, but it's not a huge deal – you can always check back later.
Perhaps instead you could read the newsletter from your child’s school. Pulling it up, you begin to read, “That’s a wrap! Another year in the books at Middlesbury Elementary...” Then it crashes.
Now your patience is beginning to wane. You click the icon to open your email. Phew, at least that works. There are three unread messages: one is about signing up for a summer golf league, another is a promotion from a local deli (the fourth promo this week – you should really unsubscribe), and the third is a message from your sister-in-law. You click that message first and begin reading, “Hey, I got an email from you without text or a subject, just a REALLY long link. Did you mean to send that to me?” Nope, you never sent it. Now you’re really starting to wonder, what is wrong with your trusty laptop?
Chances are, your computer has contracted malicious software, more commonly known as malware.
Beware of Malware
Think of malware as a health problem – it comes in many different forms. Some are like the flu, bursting with visible symptoms. Others are like tumors, silent and difficult to detect. While malware can be easy to recover from, like a common cold, it is best treated with an early diagnosis.
Here’s a look at some of the more common types of malware:
Spyware: Steals sensitive information and monitors user practices
Keylogger: Records every keystroke a user makes
Virus: Steals information or money, harms networks, and is capable of copying itself and spreading to other computers
Worm: Consumes bandwidth, overloads servers, and steals information; possesses the ability to self-replicate and spread without human activity
Adware: Collects information about browsing habits, then displays forced advertising
Ransomware: Locks the device and forces the user to pay for access
Bot: Automatically performs specific operations such as collecting personal data
Rootkit: Allows a third party to silently access or control the device; enables them to steal information, modify settings, and install additional malware
Trojan Horse: Disguises itself as a normal file to trick users into downloading it; enables third parties to steal data, install additional malware, modify files, and monitor user activities
Malware can strike anyone, but we want you to be prepared to fight it. That’s why TechTips will become a recurring feature of these newsletters, always with a “Malware of the Month” section where we'll describe an attacker making its way around the Web. The more you know about malware, the more you can do to protect your devices from these nasty bugs.
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