Computer Viruses

 Computers and the Internet have entirely changed the way people live, work and play and conducting business is completely dependent on electronic devices for connecting to networks, retrieving and sending information and documentation, as well as vital inter and intra-office communications.  Residents of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are no exception and rely on a variety of electronic devices every day.   

That’s all fine and well until a virus infects your electronic device and causes it to do weird things, slows down or freezes up altogether, rendering the device useless until a an Internet Technology (IT) professional appears on the scene to diagnose and repair the problems. 

The reasons people spend so much time and energy developing these nefarious invaders are numerous and include blackmail, personal revenge and political or social activism.  Regardless of motives the damage caused by computer viruses, worms and other malware (“malicious software”) can be severe and sometimes devastating. 

The importance of developing a good working relationship with a qualified IT specialist in the Toronto area cannot be overstated since simply installing security software is not sufficient to keep devices safe.  This applies to individuals as well as businesses that rely every day on computers, Smartphones, tablets and a variety of other handheld mobile devices.  

Even installation of the latest and greatest antivirus software cannot protect electronics from malware because the cyber criminals who create the invasive viruses are always trying to stay one step ahead of even top antivirus software programs. 

Well, you may say, I will just stop downloading music, streaming movies and visiting suspicious websites and won’t have to worry about viruses.  Unfortunately, you would still leave yourself open to invasive viruses that can find their way into any electronic device when users simply surf the Internet, check business or personal emails or even by adding external devices to your computer or laptop.   

Now you’re probably wondering if the symptoms your device has been displaying are indicative of the presence of a virus that you should be trying to eradicate.  The following is a list of common issues symptomatic of invasive computer viruses: 

  • Application(s) stop working properly 

  • Menus and dialogue boxes seem different 

  • Inaccessible disks or drives 

  • Printing issues 

  • Computer processing speed slows down or freezes up 

  • Computer reboots or restarts on its own 

  • Error messages 

  • software program disappears  

  • Unexpected and unfamiliar sounds or music 

  • New icons appear on desktop when no new software has been installed 

  • Antivirus program won’t run, disables or won’t restart; new antivirus software won’t install properly or at all 

  • Ads appear while you’re not actively browsing or surfing the Internet. 

  • Outgoing emails are shown in your “sent” file that you didn’t send 

  • Unusual or suspicious emails from friends who may unknowingly have a computer virus 

Worms and Trojan Horses 

Computer operators in Toronto have also been plagued with stand-alone malwares that replicate themselves by spreading to other computers (often through networking) and don’t need to attach themselves to any existing computer program.  These invasive worms rely on security failures on the target computer to infect and spread malware. 

One of the worst types is the Trojan Horse that claims to help rid computers of viruses but instead infects them with insidious malware applications. The Trojan Horse references the story of the Greeks giving a gigantic wooden horse to their enemies during the Trojan War, supposedly as a peace offering, but the horse was filled with a select group of fighting men. 

Although worms and Trojan Horses are different from computer viruses, they have the ability to transport and spread viruses and display symptoms that include the following issues: 

  • Computer operates as if it’s being controlled by someone else remotely 

  • Uninstalled software suddenly appears  

  • A contact in the address book indicates having received an email from you that you didn’t send, which often include links or attachments with extensions like .ese, .bat, .vbs or .scr. 

  • After clicking on a nefarious link or opening an infected attachment, especially one that ends with the extensions indicated above, the computer stops operating properly and begins to drag or error or dialogue boxes start appearing 

  • Every contact in a user’s address book receives an infected file 

  • Computer hard disk reformats, deleting files and programs 

  • After the infected file replicates itself on your computer, all hard disk free space will be taken up by the invader 

Some of the symptoms outlined above may be caused by something other than malware such as old or faulty software or hardware, running too many programs at the same time, lack of disk space or simply a computer that has become obsolete and needs replacing.  Problems also arise when users fail to keep their computer or operating systems safe by running newer software programs and up-to-date anti-virus security software, which changes all the time to keep pace with cyber criminals and hackers.  The high-tech residents of the city of Toronto have a large selection of experienced, competent and reliable IT experts from which to choose for computer related services. 

Denial of Service Attack (DoS) 

DoS cyber attacks have become all too common and are used by hackers to disrupt or suspend services linked to a certain machine or network resource such as gateways to credit card payment information or denying entry to a particular business or store. This is most often accomplished by flooding the targeted device or resource with overwhelming numbers of requests (emails, log in attempts, etc.) that overload electronic systems and interrupt or completely suspend normal operations. 

Cyber criminals focus these attacks on high profile web servers like banks and other credit card and financial institutions.  It’s also common for hackers to attack high profile media websites, including political sites, with the intent of completely bringing down a website for multiple hours to abruptly stop operations at least temporarily.   

One of the biggest cyber attacks ever perpetrated was aimed at the BBC in early 2016 by an organization that wanted to take down websites affiliated with ISIS.  Sony was recently hacked and private emails were leaked that revealed the disdain of some company executives for certain celebrities, among other things.  Customer personal and credit card information has been stolen via numerous cyber attacks on retailers like Target and others, many of whom are giants in their particular industries.

More recently a Domain Name Server (DNS) suffered a DoS attack that completely took down its online systems and created widespread outages on popular websites like Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Twitter and Airbnb.

Preventing Malware 

As previously mentioned, a lot of cyber attacks rely on the ignorance, naivete or unpreparedness of both novice and experienced computer operators.  The best protection is a multi-faceted security plan that includes the following: 

  • Keep computers and operating systems up-to-date using patching and updates offered by various Internet browsers to protect against the latest nefarious threats 

  • Use reputable anti-virus software and update it often because none are infallible 

  • Never reveal login and password information even to apparently legitimate sources 

  • Never open emails from senders you don’t know 

  • Never forward “chain” type emails 

  • Change passwords on routers and other devices regularly 

Conclusion 

The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with cyber attacks and the various ways they are perpetrated, as well as maintaining the most recent reputable anti-virus software available because this remains one of the best ways to prevent malicious electronic invasions.  You should also seek a qualified IT expert in the Toronto area to assist when issues arise that are out of the realm of your particular expertise. 

No computer is exempt from hacking and invasive viruses that are designed to do nothing more than disrupt personal lives and business operations for millions of people around the world.  When these invaders attack your electronic device, you need to call an expert (affectionately referred to as a computer nerd or geek) whose obsession with electronics will be your personal or professional saving grace when your electronic equipment malfunctions and prevents normal lives and business operations. 

Even large organizations are having trouble keeping up with all the viruses and invasive worms and nefarious hackings that are becoming all too common.  It’s become quite ordinary for national news reports to include segments dedicated to warning about the most recent computer virus or latest hacking of personal information from retailers and others.  

It’s never been more important to contact your local Toronto IT specialist to assist with identifying, eradicating and preventing virus and other malware attacks.  These professionals are your best defense against malicious computer invaders since they are familiar with old and new viruses and malware and can provide valuable advice as to safe and reliable anti-virus security and other software programs.

 

About DSB

Legal secretary for 15 years, SEO content specialist trained in accuracy in written documents, including grammar, punctuation and syntax.
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