Those tiny pop-ups aren’t as harmless as you think.
As internet browsing is the go-to method for window shopping, running your business, and socializing, the digital world has had to make many improvements to keep up with the increase in activity. What few realize is that consumers and businesses aren’t the only ones becoming tech-savvy.
Hackers have also joined the fray, and as websites become more complex, their methods for infiltrating our computers have evolved. Promises of free downloads, harmless add-ons, and other incentives designed to attract our attention and clicks have made infecting our computers easier than ever. You or your business depends on a computer or network, this means the effects of malware can be devastating.
Why Safe Surfing is Important
Most hackers want to disrupt services or monitor the flow of data, allowing them to retrieve sensitive financial and personal information. If you’re an online store, this could be disastrous as hackers gather credit card numbers and billing addresses for their own use. Your shopping cart could crash or customers could suddenly become unable to effectively browse your site. An even worse scenario: your website could become a hub of infection, spreading malware you’ve invited into the network onto computers that visit your URL.
Trust is key, and users need to know they can count on your website to be safe and secure. If you’ve been the victim of a cyber attack or are experiencing issues due to malware and spyware, users may see this as a sign that you’re unreliable. If they’re doubting your website, your credibility could be in danger.
How to Tell If You’ve Been Targeted
There are plenty of telltale signs that your computer has malicious spyware, viruses, and other “malware” infecting it, including icons or elements appearing on your desktop that weren’t there previously and unknown web browsers. But how can you avoid falling for the latest scam meant to harm your computer?
Start by understanding that malware doesn’t just appear on your computer. Unsafe and careless browsing can quickly expose vulnerabilities in your network security, leaving your system open to hackers. In a company setting, this means you or your fellow employees may be the ones unknowingly infecting your computer.
How to Recover From Malware
There are many programs you can download to protect your computer from viruses as you browse the internet. Anti-virus programs are designed to look for the latest viruses and stop them from infecting your computer, but you should still take care to avoid unsafe browsing practices.
If you computer has been infected already then your options could be limited. You could restore your system to a previous point using a backup image or system restore function. If you can’t rely on either of the aforementioned tactics, then you may be forced to perform a wipe and reformat. Your system won’t be quite the same, and it will take time reinstalling all of the software you previously downloaded, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to start with a clean system.
What to Avoid While Browsing
Don’t go for those free “enhanced” web browsers or free-to-play games unless you’re browsing on a reputable website. If you’re ever unsure about a downloadable or offer, try Googling the website or download first; and if it’s malware, you’ll probably find plenty of users posting “beware, don’t download, this is a scam” replies to your query.
Remember to always read the terms and conditions of any program you’re downloading, as many will indicate your consent for them to install other programs if you don’t un-check certain boxes during the installation process. Some free programs often have other add-ons and changes they want to make by default and you can refuse those by carefully reading each screen prompt during an installation. This is one of the easiest ways for hackers to sneak spyware onto unsuspecting computers.
Update Your Computer’s Security and Anti-Virus
Surfing without the latest security patch or anti-virus update makes you a prime target for hackers. If you don’t have the newest virus definitions installed on your computer then someone can access your PC through random banner and sidebar ads you come across on the web. What may look legit at first may actually be a hacker’s clever attempt to infiltrate your computer.
The same applies to e-mail attachments you receive from others—some of whom may have been unwitting victims of malware themselves. Hackers love spamming contacts on their victims’ email lists since most people won’t think twice about opening messages from friends, family, and coworkers.
What You Can Do to Secure Your Company’s Computers
Invest in an IT department or outsource it to another company that will focus on maintaining the security of your computers and servers on a daily basis. Battling malware is an everyday task. Dealing with the latest hacking trends involves downloading updates, patches, and new software regularly. Protect your PCs consistently and proactively by using individuals trained in how to deal with malware and spyware.
Start with a smart IT department trained to handle PC security and follow up with some quick tips on how to browse safely online for your employees.