Unfortunately, malware is not a foreign term. In fact, it’s pretty well known to anyone who uses a computer. There are several types of malware as well as mediums in which you may receive it. So, before you click on that link for the free cruise you won, think about all of the personal data you could be giving away.
First, let’s take a quick tour of the types of malware you may run into.
Viruses: These act very similar to the flu virus in a human. Your computer becomes infected by a virus, worm, or trojan horse by opening or running a nefarious file. Once it gets into a computer, it propagates by copying itself and becoming part of another program. Then, just like the flu moves at an elementary school, it spreads from computer to computer, infecting an entire network.
Spyware: This form of malware works just as its name implies. It is a software that usually piggybacks on legitimate downloads. Once it is on your computer, it spies on the information you key in and sends it to a website. The first sign of spyware is usually a slow computer since it takes up more resources to run.
Adware: We know this one all too well. Those pesky pop-ups telling you your computer is infected or that you won money. These also piggyback on other applications or downloads, such as free computer wallpaper, widgets or toolbars. Adware isn’t inherently dangerous to your computer—annoying, but not dangerous. However, once clicked on, you’ve basically opened the floodgates, especially when asked to enter personal information.
Ransomware: With the popularity of cryptocurrency, ransomware has become more and more abundant. Often, this type of malware won’t damage your computer… right away. Instead, it will lock it and hold it hostage. The hacker asks for ransom and will provide a key once the ransom has been paid. If not, the hacker will usually wipe your device of all of its data. Read this blog for more on ransomware.
Botware: This is another malware beginning to gain popularity due to the cryptocurrency gold rush. Botware ultimately turns your computer into a zombie by flooding it with denial-of-service attacks. It helps hide anything going on below the surface. A surprising symptom of botware is a higher electric bill. Your computer’s CPU will be running constantly and the fan will run for longer than usual.
Now that you are a bit more familiar with the mischievous malware that could corrupt your devices, it’s time to delve into a lesser known malware scam: Malvertising.
This has been gaining headway on Google. So much so, they have created an individual landing page asking consumers to report malvertising and explaining how to combat it. Cyber-criminals utilize several types of display advertisements to distribute malware through auto-redirecting ads that take you to a phishing page or click bait through malicious code hidden within an ad.
Sadly, cybercriminals usually use legitimate ad networks because of the high volume of ads they distribute. It makes it incredibly easy for them to throw code into an ad without the advertiser having the slightest clue. In the long run, the only way an advertiser may find out is when Google flags their website for hosting malware, affecting how they show up in search results. The worst malvertising connects users’ computers to an exploit kit that runs an analysis on the computer, looking for vulnerabilities and exploiting them. From there, attackers can install malware, ransomware or gain full access to the computer and sensitive information.
Like most other malware situations, the best way to keep it from ruining your device or your identity is to keep everything up–to–date. This includes programs like Java, Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. Ad networks are working hard to stay above the curve, but it is your responsibility to help with that.
Be sure to report any suspicious ads to Google. If the ad’s script contains suspicious code, including encrypted code, it should be treated with suspicion. Remove the ad from your website and report it to your ad network. There are many ad verification websites that help check ads for suspicious code. The bottom line with any mischievous malware is to keep your eyes open and report foul play.