There are numerous ways you can fall victim to an online predator, from phishing scams to social engineering and everything in between. However, in these days of increasing sophistication where hackers and fraudsters are employing ever more cunning ways to deceive us, one of the oldest tricks in the book is still very much alive and kicking. It can be tempting to think that we’re above being defrauded or corrupted by email, but unfortunately our old friend the email virus is not going anywhere and the risk of being infected by malware via an email is still a very real one.
Malware is a threat that comes in many different forms. From spyware that monitors your internet usage and steals your personal information, to Trojan Horses that can corrupt your files purely for fun, and from potentially unwanted programs which install annoying toolbars to adware which can plague you with pop-up adverts and send you to websites you don’t want to visit, you need to be on guard whenever you’re online.
4 ways to avoid being infected by email-borne viruses
- Install an antivirus program
- Be careful when opening email attachments
- Exercise caution when clicking links in mails and messages
- Signs you have been infected by a virus
If you’re running your PC or laptop without an antivirus program, you’re playing Russian Roulette with your online security! You’d be surprised at how many small and medium-sized businesses in Rochester and Buffalo, NY we meet that are woefully unprotected. Simply put, you should install antivirus software and, crucially, keep it up to date. A good antivirus program will scan incoming emails for any known viruses and stop them from infecting your PC. Keeping up-to-date with the latest version is vital because new viruses are constantly in circulation so you need to ensure you’re protected against everything that is currently known about it.
This is a given, right? You know email attachments from unknown senders can be a hotbed of viral infections. But did you know that you’re just as likely to receive an infected email from someone you actually know? No, your co-worker, significant other or good old Uncle John hasn’t suddenly taken an unexpected turn against you – they’ve been infected themselves and that photo, video or document is actually a virus in disguise. Open the file and you’ll execute the virus which will infect your computer. If you’re the recipient of an unexpected attachment, it’s wise to drop the sender an email asking them if it really did come from them.
In a similar vein, you also need to play it safe when you receive an email or instant message that includes a link – particularly now that many of us communicate via chat apps and IM on a daily basis. Whether you’re a Skype, Whatsapp, Kik for PC user, links can be a minefield of phishing, malware and viruses. By clicking on an innocuous-looking link you could be directed to a website whose sole purpose is to download malware onto your PC. The same rule as above applies – if in doubt, check with the sender.
Some malware will hijack your browser and install a new toolbar, some will commandeer your search engine or home page and redirect you to websites that the developer has a vested interest in you visiting. Other problems that may occur include your computer running more slowly or continually crashing. Plus any installed malware can interact with other programs installed on your PC and create operating and security issues.
If you get infected, what should you do?
Disconnect - Clean - Reinstall
If your PC is exhibiting any of the above signs then you need to isolate it. Viruses are designed to spread and if the person who transmitted the virus to you has sent it to everyone in their email contacts then the likelihood is that you’re going to too. That means not only will you infect your co-workers here in Buffalo and Rochester, NY but you’ll be spreading the love farther afield too! Viruses know no boundaries so it’s time for damage limitation. Physically disconnect your computer to stop it disseminating the virus.
Your next step is to kick that virus to the curb! The best way of getting rid of a virus is by using a removal tool that was purposefully created to combat the virus in question. If you’ve a decent antivirus program installed, it should have a patch or update ready to tackle the virus. Not running the latest version? (We warned you about that!) Upgrade immediately.
Different viruses cause different damage and to start using your computer again in its pre-virus condition you will need to restore it to its original state. Here may be a good moment to point out how crucial backing up your PC properly is! Damage can run the gamut of everything from file names being changed to your operating system being totally destroyed. You will need to use the restore CD that came with your PC when you bought it to do this – but bear in mind you’ll lose anything installed or saved since purchase.
Viruses spread like wildfire once executed and while infecting your friends and family is bad enough, imagine the fallout from one of your employees opening a malware-infested email and infecting your entire company with a potentially lethal virus.
All it takes is one click to bring your entire operation to a grinding halt. And let’s not forget the embarrassment and potential damage to your reputation that infecting your clients can cause.
Your Break Room Isn’t Complete Without...
We created a Security Tips poster to share with your staff... hang it in your break room as a reminder. The poster reminds employees of ways to STOP malicious threats and what you should do if you think you are infected.