Identifying and Eradicating Computer Viruses
You know about computer viruses, but do you really know what they can do to your computer? In the early 2000s, and even as early as the late 1990s, the main reason people used computer viruses was to wreak havoc by doing things such as scrolling profanity across a screen or deleting a file.
As technology improved, however, by the mid-2000s, these viruses became more sophisticated and the operators of them could access the victim’s activity thanks to screenshots and keystroke loggers, a new technology also known as “spyware”.
These new viruses also allowed a hacker to collect a victim’s personal information such as bank account and Social Security numbers, and still do.
How Viruses Work
When most people think of a virus, they usually think of it from a health sense, such as a flu virus. When your body contracts a virus, your health is negatively affected. A computer virus is the same. There are also viruses that may lay dormant within your machine and come to life due to some type of stimulation. Other viruses are picked up when you download another file that contains a virus, or if you visit an infected website.
I get e-mails all of the time from people who have had their identities stolen, and they are almost always unable to explain how it happened. However, I sometimes go through an investigation with them, and we usually find that their computers have been hacked. How does this happen? Most of the time it is because the victim was on a website playing a game on a rogue foreign website, downloaded files from an unsafe website, opening an infected email attachment or visited an infected site with an outdated browser.
These, among many other ways, allow the virus to infiltrate the computer. Once this happens, the hacker has access to the hard drive, and they can access the computer from anywhere or view the files at any time.
When the hacker gains access to the victim’s computer, he or she will often log the keystrokes of the user, which will give the hacker a record of any websites the victim visits as well as any usernames and passwords that are typed on the keyboard.
In addition to this, all of the files on the victim’s computer are now available, including personal information such as name, address, Social Security number, and more. Once the hacker has this information, they are free to open bank accounts, apply for loans or any other practice that requires a solid identity that is not their own.
Having antivirus software isn’t enough for protecting your data and devices. It’s only the beginning. There’s more:
- Recognizing ruses by hackers to get you to give up personal information
- Keeping software updated
- Using long, strong passwords
- Recognizing when your device might already be infected (e.g., it runs really slow; programs start spontaneously)
The Importance of Updates
- Since hackers are always updating their skills and tricks, why shouldn’t security software keep up? Though alerts for updates are annoying, you absolutely must get the updates.
- Don’t just wait for the alerts. Go into your control panel and see if any updates are available for your OS.
Other Protective Steps
- Encrypt your drive
- Update your router’s software.
- Turn off location services of apps you don’t use.
- Clear your browser’s data on a frequent basis.
- Disable the Adobe Flash in your browser. This doggone thing is a common conduit for malware.
- Password protect and encrypt your devices.
- Never click links inside e-mails when you’re not expecting the link.