How do you know if you’ve been compromised by Malware?

Malware is frighteningly efficient. It’s ubiquitousness, and rise, in the age of edge tech, IoT and cryptomining is a sign of bad faith actors understanding they only have to breach you once to undo years of hard work. And as recent data breaches and ransomware attacks have shown, the results can be incredibly damaging for you, your partners and your customers.

For those unsure of what exactly Malware is, “Malicious Software (Mal-Ware)” is an umbrella term for software that is designed to undermine, breach, damage, defraud, disable or exploit networks. It’s only job is to cause you and your company harm and, typically, steal data or bypass access to data for financial leverage.

Malware infections have been on the rise for years. In 2018, there were 812 million reported malware infections worldwide. This rose during COVID (for example there was a 72% rise in new sample ransomware and a huge increase in phishing scams at employee’s homes) as reliance on digital systems of work, communication and data protection increased exponentially and networks became stretched to an unsustainable degree.

92% of Malware are delivered by email, with an increasing amount of “mobile variants” delivered specifically via compromised apps, and 230,000 new Malware samples are made every day. It is not an isolated issue specific to some industries or countries. It’s a global digital scourge and one every business no matter their size has to be aware of.

What types of Malware are there?

Virus – Typically corrupts data, damages networks, creates botnets and locks people from their computers, typically requiring human involvement in loading and infection,

Worm – An “autonomous” standalone program that infects and spreads between computers over a network, usually in the form of sending a “package” to damage a system, steal, infect data or erase data,

Trojan Horse – A disguised file that tricks users into downloading or installing a certain file or program, giving a third party access to your system,

Spyware – Installed without users knowing, it tracks your browser traffic and history, and harvests that information,

Adware – Aggressive advertising software, redirecting you via browsers to view adverts without your consent, sometimes collecting your data,

Ransomware – This type of Malware holds your data hostage and demands payment to release the data back to you, and Cryptojacking is increasingly gaining traction as the Crypto-market expands.

How can you tell if your computer or network has been infected with malware?

Malware is designed to be relatively hidden, with the exception of Adware and Ransomware – you will know very quickly if you’ve been locked out of your system and require to pay a fee to reassess it again, or are being spammed with ads. Here are the most obvious ways you can tell if your systems, or network, have been infected with Malware:

Unexplained and seemingly random system behaviour

Outside of Ransomware, the most obvious sign of a compromised computer is unusual activity or behaviour, such as suspicious search results (typical of spyware), unusual or new toolbars, the inability to delete files or programmes. This is a very visible and blunt malware tool, but effective, as sourcing and finding malware files can be labour and time intensive without effective anti-virus.

Pop Ups and Spam

Although popups are legal, certain spyware strains have been transported via popups to start tracking browser use and track user traffic, and can be used to gather personal information.

Redirection

Trojans can, for example, direct you to websites that seem similar to existing sites (such as banking sites or mobile phone account sites) but are in fact fraudulent. Checking the URL address will tell you everything you need to know about where the link is sending you, with the vast majority of this sort of traffic being directed from illegitimate browser extensions, which are easily deleted.

Social Media Hacks and Mysterious Posts

Malware can sometimes manifest as clickbait on your social feeds – such as friends (or you) posting inflammatory or suspicious comments next to a link – any click throughs move the malware onto another victim.

Performance issues

From incredibly slow load up times to unsuspected crashing of browsers, to unusual pop ups as you spin your computer up, or your OS saying access to drives is unavailable. Although fixable through either a re-install of your OS or a scan by an effective anti-virus program, the irony of this sort of diligence is slightly slower performance is easy to ignore, especially on older legacy machines, leading to the spread of Malware.

For advice and assistance on all matters of cybersecurity and technology please contact us :  ABCOM 01444 871200 – email info@:abcom.co.uk