It’s officially the time of year again that brings the tricks and treats with it, and in honor of this month, which also happens to be National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we’re encouraging you to stay guarded against any spooky malware that may be on the prowl. These days, malware is extremely prevalent and holds no bounds when it comes to attacking the innocent. The methods being used to gain entry into victims’ systems are only growing, so it’s more important than ever to be aware of what’s out there. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of common Internet tricks you need to keep an eye out for in order to remain safe.
You’ve most likely come across scareware, otherwise known as ransomware or scam software, when surfing the Internet at one point or another. This type of malware creates pop-ups on your screen that attempt to scare you into taking a call to action. For example, they will often times flash a message saying your system has been infected with a virus and then urge you to download a security application, sometimes requiring your credit card information to do so. Do not download the software; it’s fake. If you already have a trusted antivirus on your computer, you should be familiar with the branded messaging that will pop up in the event of an actual infection. If you don’t already run an AV solution on your system, you should strongly consider getting one, but from a legitimate, well-researched source. Don’t let scareware get the best of you.
Phishing Sites and Links
Phishing is a type of Internet fraud that attempts to steal personal information like passwords, credit card numbers and bank account details. Phishing websites will often disguise themselves as legitimate company sites, closely imitating the credible sources they are pretending to be, and will encourage you to enter your personal information in order to access them. Sometimes, phishing schemes will also use email or trusted websites to target people. Keep in mind, only 1 in 5 emails sent worldwide are legitimate now, and most online attacks are redirects from legitimate sites. If you look closely at a phishing URL, you’ll notice the link in the browser command doesn’t match the link for the real site. So always be sure to do a quick inspection of the link, without clicking on it, and never enter your personal data into a site you don’t already know and trust, otherwise your information could be stolen.
Trojans are simply malware that disguise themselves as other things, so you can imagine how dangerous banking trojans can be. Mega banking trojan schemes, like the infamous Zeus, are all developed to do the same thing. They are built to escape detection by your antivirus while intercepting things like your keystrokes, browser data and stored files to help break into your online bank account and steal your money. As with any malware, your best chance against an attack is to ensure you’re using an AV that will double-check any sites you’re accessing. The last thing you want is to be caught up in a large botnet operation, having your financial data leaked to cybercriminals.
If you own a smartphone, it’s safe to assume you’ve downloaded apps on it, and you guessed it, criminals have begun to take advantage of this. Even iOS users, who have traditionally assumed they’re safe against attack, are vulnerable. The Apple store has seen numerous fraudulent apps pass through its strict screening process recently, scamming users into downloading and paying for fake, malware infected applications. And just in August alone, over 1,000 fraudulent apps were posted to the Google Play store. It’s incredibly important to double-check the apps you are interested in downloading before you actually do. Our mobile devices are so important to us these days so the last thing you’d want is to have yours attacked.
With all of the malware lurking on the Internet, it’s easy to feel weary, which is just the way the criminals behind fake antivirus attacks want you to feel. More and more of these bogus systems have been appearing, often popping up on users’ screens with an urgent message telling them to remove a virus from their system, perform an update, or install new software. They’re designed to look legitimate, but upon close inspection, you can often spot a fake AV. Look out for errors in spelling or the lack of a company logo within the message and know that a real AV would never ask you to enter your credit card information in a pop-up screen in order to ward off an infection.
If you do get tricked by one of these not so sweet treats, not to worry. You can always be on the lookout by knowing how to recognize some of the most common signs of an infection, like a slower system and strange pop-up windows. And of course, you should make sure you’re being proactive by using an antivirus on all of your devices – not just your PCs, preventing you from being spooked by any malware!