According to a report from Kaspersky Labs, a leading computer security company the number of new malware files detected by its products in 2016 increased to 323,000 per day.
The easiest way for a hacker to enter your phone is through malware. In this article, we will introduce to the concept of malware, how to prevent malware from getting installed on your phone and what you can do to remove already installed malware.
WHAT IS MALWARE?
Sign Up for E-News
Malware, or malicious software, is any computer program or file that is harmful to a computer. The malware can steal your personal information or take control of your device or even delete information on your device.
Figure 1: Different forms of malware
Malware comes in different forms such computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware (Figure 1.). These malicious programs can steal or delete sensitive data, hijack your computer, control and monitor users’ computer activity without their permission.
- A computer virus typically is a malicious program that writes over a host file and gets propagated via email or file transfers to other computers.
- A worm doesn’t’t need human action to propagate itself. It replicates itself and for example, sends a copy of itself to all the emails in your address book or contacts list.
- A Trojan horse true to its name comes in the guise of a legitimate app but actually takes control of your computer. It may also create a backdoor that will let the hacker go in and out of the system anytime.
- Spyware collects data and information on your activities on the device.
- Ransom ware takes control of the user’s computer or device and encrypts the data on the device and demands a ransom for decryption.
- Rootkits are fairly complex malware. The name “Root” comes from the term used for administrators on Unix. Rootkits are vicious software that take control of your computer or device on an operating system level or the user level.
Rootkits cause instability in the operating system. Rootkits come in various forms – Kernel rootkits, firmware rookits that write to assembly code and virtual rootkits that take control of virtual OS.
You need special malware protection to tackle rootkits – RootKitRevealer, F-Secure Blacklight, ProcessGuard, Rootkit Hunter and Microsoft’s Windows malicious software tools – are some of the helpful tools available.
Adware is a type of software that annoys users with unwanted ad popups, degrading the system. While not malicious, it can degrade the performance of your system by taking up too many resources.
HOW DO YOU PREVENT MALWARE FROM GETTING INTO YOUR COMPUTER OR DEVICE?
The best practices for keeping your device secure have been discussed in a series of tech tips prior to this article.
Having an up to date anti-virus software on your computer or your phones will be extremely helpful as a first step. Every browser you use should have anti-malware extensions installed. For example, I have ‘BitDefender’ plugins installed on all of the browsers I use. Once you install it, it will check any incoming files or traffic forever and warn you against bad software downloads. Also, I keep an adware plugin called ‘AdBlock Plus’ on my chrome.
Using recommended ad blockers and malware software is important as there are malware that masquerade the same names as the original malware blockers but actually cause harm to your computer.
In addition, you need to be extremely careful about where you download software for your computer or apps for your phone. Downloading apps only from the legitimate app stores and keeping all security settings enabled will keep your device safe. You should not download suspicious or pirated apps. There are security settings in Android that warn you from picking up apps from ‘Unknown Sources’. Avoid clicking on suspicious looking ‘phishing’ links in your emails as this can get malware on to your computer or device.
Once you install anti-malware provider lke ‘BitDefender’, every search on your web browser is accompanied by a green circle if it is considered a legitimate website or search result as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: TrafficLight from BitDefender marks websites as legitimate
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF MALWARE IS INSTALLED ON YOUR COMPUTER?
You know you have malware if your computer or phone has any of the following symptoms:
- Getting lots of popups and ads
- The computer is extremely slow and sluggish
- Excessive activity on your hard drive even when you are a way from your computer
- Programs and windows on your computer opening and closing automatically
- The anti-virus solution on your computer is disabled
- Your friends are getting suspicious emails with or without attachments from you
Rootkit malware takes control of the operating system and comes with severe symptoms
- The computer keyboard and mouse no longer works and it is locked up
- Web pages do not get uploaded due to sudden increases in network traffic
- Settings on the windows machines change without any input from you
HOW DO YOU REMOVE MALWARE AND PREVENT FUTURE ATTACKS?
If your computer or device has one or more of the symptoms described in the section 2 (How do you know if malware is installed on your computer?), you need to first make sure that you disconnect the computer from the internet and delete all temporary files on disk as well as the RAM. Uninstall all browser plugins and caches.
Next, use an anti-malware removal tool to clean the disk of all malware. Here are the top ten recommended anti-malware software packages. Any one of them can keep your computer safer and malware-proof.
- G Data
Many of these packages work on your phone as well – Avast, AVG, BitDefender, Kaspersky, Sophos and Norton are some of the more trusted brands in this area.
For Windows-based PCs, there are also freeware tools such as ‘SpyBot Search & Destroy’, ‘ComboFix’ and ‘HijackThis’ available.
Running regular scans with one of these malware detection and prevention software on your computer will help prevent attacks. Also, the software notifies you immediately of any dangers of bad links when you are on the internet. Turning on auto-updates to keep the software update is important as this tool needs to be patched every day with new emerging threats.