Spyware is the equivalent of that stalker I had last summer, I can’t help it that a 6ft tall 400lb tech dork appeals to the ladies (drink that in for a bit). Spyware is a piece of software that monitors something specific or, the worse kind, it monitors EVERYTHING you do on your computer including keyboard strokes, mouse clicks, websites visited, and even files that you delete. Think about that for a second, what could someone do with all of that information? They have a record of what website you went to, what you typed into the username and password fields on that website. If you do any online banking it wouldn’t take long for a hacker to use this type of software to drain your bank account.
The simplest way to remove spyware is to download and run Malwarebytes from Malwarebytes.org. I’ve used this software for the last few years with about a 90% success rate from the first run on any system. If you run this and it doesn’t remove the Spyware then you have a more advanced piece of Spyware on your system and it’s going to take a computer technician to clean it out.
As far as security threats goes, Adware is about as harmful as a 7 year old with a nerf bat, yea it’ll hurt at first but the pain subsides after dropping into a fetal position for a bit. Adware is just a way to force advertisements on you either in your browser or in a piece of software. There are some cases that the adware tracks more information about you than what you wanted it to. You will know you have Adware installed on your system when you start seeing advertisements on things that didn’t have them before or you get redirected to random websites while you’re browsing the internet. The easiest way to tell if you have Adware is to go to Google’s home page, if you see an advertisement below the search box you have Adware installed.
Adware can usually be removed by uninstalling the software that is running it from within the control panel of your computer. If you’re not sure which program to uninstall do your research before uninstalling anything so that you don’t accidentally remove something you need.
Scareware is exactly what it sounds like, software that wants to scare you. Now go down into the basement with that tiny flashlight you haven’t changed the batteries in for years. Scareware is a piece of software that looks like something out to help you fix your computer. Typically it will launch and run a scan on your computer, when it’s done you will be prompted to pay them to clean the files that they found. Most of the time the files they say they found to be malicious are temporary internet files, nothing more than junk files sitting in a TEMP folder on your computer.
I’ve see some Scareware that I was able to remove by simply uninstalling it through the Control Panel. Other forms of Scareware must be manually removed by a technician because of the complexity involved with editing the registry. DO NOT EVER UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES EDIT YOUR REGISTRY. The registry is a catalog of information your computer needs to function, if you delete or change something incorrectly you can hose your system. If you think you’re infected with Scareware and need some help removing it send me an email.
Ransomeware is every IT person’s worst nightmare and it should be every computer user’s as well. This stuff is worse than getting rubbing alcohol on a paper cut with hot sauce in your eyes. The mild version of Ransomeware will install itself on your computer, encrypt EVERYTHING on your system effectively locking you out of all those pictures of the last family get together. When something is encrypted you need a key to decrypt it. There are enough different types of crypto keys I could write an entire article on them so we’ll just focus on the one that Ransomeware uses to encrypt files. Ransomeware typically uses a private key, meaning there is only one key that can decrypt whatever was encrypted if it’s lost so is the data in those encrypted files. So the Ransomeware encrypts your files using this private key then gives you a solution of “pay me $$$ and I’ll give you this key” usually with a deadline of a few days or else they delete they key. Sometimes if you pay them you get your files back, but most of the time they run off with your money.
That ain’t happening… The only thing you can do is restore from a backup, you do keep regular backups right ;). If you aren’t keeping regular backups you are just asking to lose everything. Even if you don’t get infected with something what would you do if your hard drive crashed, or someone sitting next to you at an airport spills their drink on your laptop? It’s been too many times that someone has brought me a computer with a fried hard drive thinking I can pull the data off of it. That type of recovery takes equipment with a price tag starting at 5 digits long.
Things you can do to prevent Malware from getting on your system;
- Keep your antivirus updated everyday, if you’re not running an antivirus program stop reading this now and go buy one.
- If you’re cheap like me run Malwarebytes every week or buy the paid version and it will monitor your system.
- Stop clicking through those installs, stop and read what the little windows say. 99% of the stuff you download and install (not purchased software) has a checkbox that is checked allowing it to install some crap software.
- If the email looks suspicious, 9 times out of 10 it is. Don’t open it, don’t click on the attachment, and definitely don’t click on any links in it.