Virus & Malware
Information on Virus and Malware Removal
What is a Virus and Malware
A computer virus is usually a program that has been spread via emails or infected websites, and its purpose is to replicate with malicious intent, hence the word Malware. Malware usually spreads through emails and infected websites, but more sophisticated infections can spread across networks and compromise business servers and workstations. Malware causes Billions of dollars worth of damage around the globe every year, and this damage has in same cases brought large companies to their knees trying to overcome and recover from those breaches and subsequent data loss.
Malware also includes seemingly harmless unwanted programs, but the nature of these programs also generally have malicious intentions. Many of these programs are installed without your knowledge, or as third party included programs on some programs you might download over the Internet. These programs usually have one goal, and that is to convince you that you have problems with your computer and that if you pay for their program they can solve those problems. All they want is your Credit Card details, and we often see instances where people have decided to purchase the software and after they provided their credit card details they started seeing additional miscellaneous debits being taken out of their cards.
By far the most destructive class of virus has been Ransomware. Everything on a computer is at its lowest form a number, and Ransomware uses military grade encryption routines to turn your data into unreadable gibberish. You are then prompted to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have your data restored, hence the term Ransomware as they are holding victims to ransom. Anti-virus vendors have tried hard to keep up with these infections, and the nature of these infections are such that they are opening large volumes of files and encrypting each folder, so one solution has been to create protected folders. Their theory is that the moment large volumes of files are opened, created or deleted, they lock down the activity in those folders, but the unfortunate part of this practice is that backup programs also do a lot of opening and closing files, so we have seen these anti-virus programs disable backups, which to us, is not good.
Protecting yourself from infections
There is only one real way to 100% protect yourself, and that is with backups. Over the years we have seen grown men and women cry at the frustration and anger that has resulted after being the victim of a cyber attack that has destroyed their data. If there are no backups then the solutions rapidly decline. We have seen people religiously doing backups, but they leave backup drives in the computer so that when they are attacked the backup drive also gets hit. We therefore recommend having two identical drives and you rotate these drives, that way if one gets hit then you are only going to lose the short period between when you rotated the last drive. However, out of sheer frustration and the growing list of new customers who were being hit with Ransomware, we decided to deploy local cloud backup solutions. In 2017, after months of research and testing of software, we released our cloud backup systems for North Queensland. This service was adopted pretty quickly by our customers, and we now perform cloud backups for customers as far away as Western Australia.
Overall, we recommend tree potential solutions to protecting your data.
CLOUD BACKUPS: Whether it is through our services or another companies facilities, cloud backup is the only real solution to losing your data. It doesn’t matter if it is an infection that his you, but cloud backups also protect you from fire, theft and other disasters that may strike.
DUAL USB BACKUPS: Purchase two identical USB drives that you can rotate regularly to ensure that your losses are minimal. Some people don’t like swapping it every day, but it depends on how crucial your data is. Some companies can get away with losing a weeks worth of data so they choose to rotate weekly, but others cannot afford that loss so they do it daily.
A NETWORK STORAGE DEVICE (NAS): A NAS can be used to backup your files from multiple computers. However, one problem we have seen is that whoever sets up the NAS device and creates the shared folders often make the mistake of leaving the backup folders visible over the network and they use a general password for all shared folders. If a nasty infection hits then it will search the network and crawl right over the shared folders that it can see. Therefore, ensure that the NAS is setup properly. If you don’t know how to do that then give us a call.
Anti-Virus programs effectiveness varies quite a lot. There are quite a few programs that we just wouldn’t recommend because they are not effective or cause issues. Here is some feedback on some popular Anti-Virus programs on the market, and this feedback is provided solely through our own experiences with the software and are not provided in response to any packages we might be retailing.
- At the present moment we recommend Sophos to our customers because it appears to be more effective than others, plus we like the central control panel and warning procedures available for multiple computers. You can setup a free version for 3 computers, or purchase a home licence for up to 10 computers for a reasonable price. The business solutions are very professionally setup, and the central control facilities allow for easy management of multiple computers in a workplace environment. For both the home and business versions, if any computer gets infected it will notify the central administrator, which provides a brilliant early warning system for both Parents and IT Professionals.
- Many of our customers have Trend Micro, and we have a positive attitude towards Trend, but it does have the folder shield that can impede backups, and we have seen business customers hit with Ransomware and Trend didn’t stop it.
- Many of our customers also use Kaspersky, and we have not had any problems with it.
- The built in Windows 10 version of Microsoft Security Essentials seems to work ok, but we recommend using in in conjunction with programs like Superantispyware or Malwarebytes.
- ESET NOD32 is another one that our customers like, and we have not had any problems with it.
- We used to recommend AVG, but then Avast bought out AVG and started hammering people with unwanted programs that were installed without the customers knowledge, such as AVG Tuneup and AVG Driver Utility. Any program that hammers you to purchase a program that was installed without your knowledge fits into the Malware category as far as we are concerned. We have had many complaints from customers who have been prompted and entered their credit card details thinking it was for AVG Anti-Virus and instead ended up paying for software they didn’t ask for. One of our Senior Technicians computers was also hit with Ransomware whilst he was using it, and AVG didn’t bat an eyelid to stop it, so we stopped using AVG.
- Many new computers come out with Nortons, and to be perfectly honest, we wouldn’t throw water on Nortons if it was on fire. We have seen so many computers badly infected with Nortons on it, and in many cases Nortons has been disabled by Malware. It is also very resource hungry, and we have had customers come in complaining about slow computers and we have removed Nortons and the performance dramatically increases.
- McAfee Anti-Virus developers and marketers need their heads read. Any decent IT professional knows that a computer that has more than one anti-virus program on it will encounter issues because they tend to fight for control of the same resources. With that said, McAfee ends up on so many peoples computers because it is included in as an unwanted 3rd party program on software downloaded through the Internet. McAfee has no problems hitting your computer with an unwanted second Anti-Virus program that they should know full well will degrade the protection of your computer by impacting your existing subscribed security software.
Many computers also become bogged down with Malware such as tracking cookies and other such minor annoyances that come from using the Internet. This type of Malware are problematic because if you don’t keep on top of them then you can up up with thousands of them that slow your computer down. We therefore recommend using the free versions of either Superantispyware or Malwarebytes to control them and keep your computer clean.
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259 Ross River Road
Aitkenvale (Townsville) Qld 4814
Office Phone: (07) 4766 9696
International: +61 7 4766 9696