Malware, commonly referred to as a virus, is a malicious program capable of sneaking into a computer, smartphone, or tablet for some purposes such as the following: stealing private data, making the device stop working correctly, or taking control of it to lead to carry out other malicious actions.
Some tips to avoid them:
- Install antivirus and firewall and keep them up to date.
- Keep your equipment constantly updated.
- Never run a program or follow a link that comes to you in the mail and looks strange.
- Do not run files of dubious origin.
- Do not connect to your computer a USB whose source you do not know.
- Use common sense. Be wary of anything that seems suspicious to you.
- Information is key to identifying risks and being able to combat them. Try to be up to date with the threats that are circulating.
Cartoon: “The day Carlos downloaded a Trojan with a game.”
That afternoon, Carlos was playing one of his favourite games. It was set in the Second World War, and his character was a colonel from the Allied side.
During one of the breaks offered by the game, he entered a chat room to discuss the latest video game news with other players:
- MaxSoldier: That is settled in the game they come out with next week. Although I have already downloaded it and I am testing it.
- Carlos16: How? Can you download it now?
- MaxSoldier: Yes, it has been hacked. I pass you the link.
Excited, Carlos downloaded the new version of the game and set about installing it. The installation was not complicated. In addition, a file “readme.txt” explained step by step how to install: first install the game and then run the file “Keygen.exe.”
When you ran the “Keygen.exe” file, a window appeared warning you of the existence of viruses on your computer and offered to solve the problem. Carlos found it strange since his antivirus messages had never been of this type. The colour was different, and everything appeared in English. However, he accepted.
The same message would constantly appear, saying that he had a virus from that day on. In addition, his computer was slowing down to the point that he had to have it repaired by technical service. The diagnosis was precise: “you have a virus like a cathedral .” The only way to eliminate the virus was by formatting the computer. On this occasion, recklessness led Carlos to be the victim of a computer virus that infected his computer.
How do our devices get infected?
The multitude of services and devices that we use every day means that the entry routes of viruses have increased. Below we list some of the most used ways to sneak into our systems:
The email is one of the main routes into virus files because they may contain dangerous attachments or links to malicious web pages.
In the case of the attached file, it is usually an executable program (.exe), a PDF file, or a compressed file (.zip or .rar). However, you have to be careful with any file.
Instead, the links could redirect us to a malicious website that contains malware to infect us or that pretends to be an honest service. Forgeries of banking web pages ( phishing ) are widespread.
Although these emails usually come from unknown senders, they may come from a known contact. This may be because the sender’s computer is infected or the email source address has been spoofed ( mail spoofing ).
External storage devices (USB sticks, hard drives, memory cards, etc.)
The infection through USB devices is mainly carried out by copying infected files from a USB to our computer. Sometimes, by connecting a USB containing a virus to our laptop, we can be infected since some viruses can self-execute.
When opening or executing files downloaded from the Internet (programs, multimedia content, documents, etc.), one must be cautious as they can conceal some malware.
We must be cautious with what we download through file-sharing programs (P2P) or obtain from content download web pages, as they may be more prone to contain viruses.
Malicious web pages
Some web pages are prepared to infect the user who visits it by taking advantage of the security problems of an outdated browser or installed plugins: Java, Flash, etc. It may also be the case that a cybercriminal manipulates a legitimate website and redirects the user to a malicious or fraudulent website.
To reach these can be through shortened links on Twitter or other social networks, searching for programs on unreliable websites, or links in fraudulent emails.
Social networks are also used to infect devices due to the large number of users who frequent them and the high spread.
We must be cautious against links to web pages that are “rare” or unreliable, requests to install programs to access content or applications that request unjustified authorization to access our personal information.
Vulnerabilities / Security flaws
A vulnerability is a flaw or security problem in a program, application, plugin, or operating system. Cybercriminals frequently exploit them to infect computers, sometimes without the user consciously taking any dangerous action. To prevent this, manufacturers generate updates that solve security problems, hence the importance of always keeping our equipment updated.
Main consequences of viruses
Encryption and erasure of information
Some viruses are programmed to erode personal information such as videos, photos, contacts, documents, etc. It may be difficult or impossible to recover such information in these cases unless we have a backup copy.
Today, one of the main objectives of malware is the theft of information, mainly banking, for financial gain and any other kind.
In the event of information theft, the implications may lead to loss of privacy, identity theft, a commission of crimes on our behalf, or financial loss.
If we have been victims of information theft, we can suffer identity theft in digital life and the physical world. The well-founded suspicion that one is a victim of identity theft should be brought to the State Security Forces and Bodies (FCSE).
Sometimes a virus can access our bank details, allowing cybercriminals to buy products online, make transfers, or even duplicate the card used in physical stores.
Although let’s not forget that they are also capable of performing harmful actions such as locking the computer or encrypting stored documents until we pay a certain amount of money.
We must install an effective antivirus on computers, tablets, and smartphones. In addition to detecting malware, many of these programs incorporate functionalities to validate the reliability of the web pages we browse.
There are both paid and free antivirus. We must ensure that a reliable company has developed it. To do this, we recommend looking for comparative antivirus studies such as those of Av comparatives, the OCU, or Better antivirus.
It is recommended to download the antivirus from the manufacturer’s official website, keep it constantly updated (although many of these programs update automatically) and not install two antiviruses on the same computer. In the Free tools section of the portal, you can find links to the pages of different manufacturers where you can download free antivirus.
To prevent our computer from having security problems that viruses could exploit, we must regularly apply updates to the operating system and browsers without installing updates to all the programs we use.
Many programs notify the publication of new updates and facilitate their download and installation with little user intervention to reduce this task.
Since some viruses can erase information, we must make backup copies of the information that we consider valuable, always in a different location from the computer that contains the data.
Before making the copy, we must apply an antivirus to ensure that the information we are going to copy is not infected. This will ensure that our data is recovered in the event of a severe infection.
Limitation of user permissions
For its operation, a computer has by default two types of users. The administrator user, with privileges to perform any action, and the standard user, without permissions for installing programs or manipulating vital files for the operating system, among others.
Often, a virus needs to modify aspects of the computer accessible only by the administrator user. The user’s use should be limited to installing applications and updates of the operating system. For everyday use, it is recommended to use a standard user; in this way, if a virus accesses the computer, it will not be able to perform specific actions, making infection difficult and eliminating it easier.
Personal firewall (firewall)
The firewall or firewall is a handy tool in the fight against viruses since it allows that possible vulnerabilities in the operating system are not visible to Internet viruses.
These applications or systems monitor the connections that enter and leave our computer, allowing normal ones and prohibiting suspicious ones.
The Windows operating system provides a default firewall that we must have activated.
The best protection against viruses is to maintain a constant attitude of caution. Some practices carry a significant risk of infection and are easily avoidable.
Real examples of viruses
There are many classes of viruses, each of which can perform different actions. Two widespread types of viruses are rogue antivirus programs and ransomware.
they are visually very similar to a legitimate antivirus, although they have the same behaviour as a virus. It intends to force the user to pay for the full version of the malicious program and carry out other actions with the computer. Our computer is through banners that warn of non-existent infections within a file.
Ransomware or ransomware
these are viruses that prevent the use of the computer, as long as we do not pay a certain amount of money, blocking it or encrypting our information. To be more convincing, they sometimes use the logos of authorities or official bodies to intimidate victims. In this way, they make us believe that we have been sanctioned for some illegal action. Examples of this type of malware are Police Virus and “Post Office Virus.”
Also Read: What Is Internet security?