Holiday season sees increase in malware

Posted on: November 26, 2014 | By: Ryan Gay | Filed under: Tech Tips

During the holiday season, hackers become increasingly active due to the increased volume of people shopping online. With an increase in internet traffic, hackers use this time of year to focus their attempts on spreading malware and viruses in order to gain access to user information such as account passwords and banking information. It is important for users to be mindful of the websites they visit and where they enter sensitive information.

What’s the deal with malware?

Malware, short for malicious software, is software used or programmed by attackers to interrupt computer operation, gather personal and sensitive information, and gain access to your computer system. Malware covers the gamut of infections computer diseases, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, rootkits, spyware, adware, rogue security software, and more.

It’s almost impossible to identify all the possible symptoms of infection due to the wide variety of malware in existence. You may notice your computer running a little sluggishly; you may not have internet access, even if you are connected through Ethernet; you receive a bunch of popups, even before you visit a website; or you might not notice anything at all.

What can I do?

There are a few things you can do to proactively keep your computer free of malware.

  • Only visit trusted websites. To determine if a website is safe, enter the web URL at a site like URLVoid, which will analyze a website through multiple blacklist engines. To learn more, read PCWorld’s article on how to tell if a link is safe without clicking on it.
  • Never trust anything from spam email. Official correspondence will never prompt you for a password or personal information of any kind. Click here to learn more about spam email.
  • Some pop-up windows will attempt to corner you into downloading software or accepting a free scan of some type. Never click inside the box (even the little X in the corner); instead, manually force-close the window via Windows Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Del), or Force Quit for Macs (Command+Option+Esc).

Keep things up-to-date

  • Updated operating system: Always keep things up to date. If you’re a PC user, use Windows Update and select the “search for updates online” option. If you’re on a Mac, it never hurts to make sure everything is up-to-date via the App Store or Settings (for your operating system).
  • Updated web browser: No matter which browser you use, keep it current to prevent infection. Take advantage of your browser’s pop-up blocking, download screening, and automatic update features. Visit What Is My Browser? to find out if your browser is up-to-date or out-of-date.
  • Antivirus and antimalware software: Make sure to use reliable antivirus and antimalware software such as ForeFront Endpoint Protection, MalwareBytes, or McAfee Virus Scan. It’s important to remember that some of these require subscriptions for the most complete versions.

Remember, the most important factor in preventing malware from infecting your computer is you. Make smart internet choices and always make sure your computer is protected when connected to the internet. If you experience issues with your university-owned computer because of malware, please contact the Technology Service Desk at 278-5200.

Image by Security Affairs

Ryan Gay

Ryan Gay

Ryan is the Manager of Service Management & IT Project Lead for Instructional & Campus Technologies. He has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from UNC-Greensboro.

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