Maybe your PC seems like it decided its new role model is the iconic beer drinking, remote control holding, lazy bum who can’t be bothered to get up off the couch to reach for another cold one. Too slow to do much and too bloated to care. Sound familiar?
No matter how much you coax, cajole and plead it won’t matter because the problem is on the inside. Think you know what’s going on in your computer? Think again. According to TopTenReviews.com, 74,000 new viruses and malware are created every day. And a study by Consumer Reports in 2013 found that 58.2 million Americans had been tainted with malware at least once over the course of the year. The business of infecting computers with malware is booming and you’re probably already a victim without realizing it.
The most common kinds of malicious software programs (aka: malware) that might be camping out in your computer are:
Viruses – These ever famous troublemakers can erase or encrypt data, send spam and share dangerous or illegal content.
Adware – Software that displays typically unwanted advertisements to make money for the advertiser.
Bundleware – Unwanted software that comes bundled together with programs you intended to download. Bundleware can also come on new PCs, making your brand new computer compromised from the get-go.
Spyware – Spyware sits silently in the back of your PC or device, collecting data and information and passes it on to third parties without your consent.
You’re probably thinking “No, no – I’ve got an antivirus program installed so that can’t be what’s slowing my machine down.” The thing about adware, malware and all their rotten friends, is that they were created by people who know a thing or two about how antivirus programs work. Their job is to circumvent that protection. As soon as a new patch is issued, hackers have found the vulnerabilities and ways to exploit it. Take the latest Adobe Flash patch for example. It was issued in early June and just four days later it had been incorporated into a drive-by-download attack as noted by malware researcher Kafeine. So these guys like to stay one step ahead.
Here are just some of the ways malware and adware can get on to even your “protected” PC:
Not paying attention when you download legit programs – Blindly clicking through software installers can fill your PC with lots of unwanted/dangerous stuff that’s nearly impossible to get rid of. And sometimes unsuspecting users click what they think is just a free e-book or calorie counting app and suddenly they’ve been exposed to a whole host of unwanted junk that came with that “free” app.
Visiting infected websites – You go to your favorite website. That’s it. That’s all you’ve done wrong because the website itself was infected and now your PC is, too. Now all that garbage is hanging out somewhere in the recesses of your PC, collecting data, exploiting holes and possibly worse. And you’re still blissfully unaware that the website was even dangerous!
Social engineering – You get an email from a social network whether it’s Facebook or something completely unknown, stating that your friend, Mike sent you a message. You think “Hey! It’s Mike! I want to see what he has to tell me.” So you click “accept”. Well it wasn’t really Mike who sent it, it was a Spam Bot with an infected link and now you’ve got malware! And it gets even more malicious than that – Social engineering and phishing are highly orchestrated and complex – Just using information from social profiles they can get victims to reveal their entire history and more.
To keep your PC from joining the ranks of bloated beer lovers you need to put in some leg work. Simply assuming that your PC will be fine because you have an antivirus program installed is foolish.
Easy steps you can take to make sure you are doing all you can to keep your PC secure:
Read installers as they run – Instead of constantly clicking the “next” button when you install software, take the time to read what you’re doing. Installers come with pre-checked boxes whose creators are banking on the fact that you most probably won’t actually read through what’s being installed. Here is where they add in bundleware, or rather, programs that
come with the desired software or app. By taking the time to read what’s being installed you save yourself the headache of dealing with the ill-effects of unwanted junk.
Stay on your toes! – Don’t turn off your brain when you are surfing the internet. Just like you wouldn’t space out when you’re behind the wheel of a car, don’t allow your cognitive processes to take time off here either. The internet is filled with tricks and traps to get you to “Click here!”. Don’t fall for it.
Get an updated malware blocking and removal program – Antivirus programs are important, but as we saw above, malware and viruses adapt and AV on its own wont keep your PC fully protected. Imagine there is an exclusive club. They have a bouncer at the door checking ID’s and invites. Malware acts like the uninvited guy who gets a fake ID and sneaks his way in. The bouncer on the outside isn’t enough security to keep the guy from ruining the whole party. You need a bouncer who works on both sides of the door. He checks ID’s and invites and just as important, keeps a keen eye on what’s happening inside to identify who might have gotten through. Any infiltrator found gets “bounced” with extreme justice.
Run weekly scans – To really ensure your PC or device is malware-free you need to scan it with regularity. Again, because malware adapts you don’t have the luxury of installing an antivirus program and hoping it will keep you covered forever. It won’t. Regular scans ensure that your PC really is clear, day to day.
Now that you have a better idea of what’s slowing your computer down, you can begin the cleanup process. It’s also a good time to flesh out how you can change your browsing habits to be more aware of what you’re doing online. The internet is a great way to learn and relax but it has more than its share of pitfalls and deception. So as Heineken says “ Enjoy Responsibly”!