Recent global malware attacks have been in the news lately, as the ransomware WannaCry hit Windows users hard, including FedEx and the British National Health System. While most of those affected are on corporate networks, and not necessarily likely to be freelancers on home computers, now is still a good time to double-check your security and get up to speed on threats.
WannaCry’s not the only malicious program out there (Worried about it specifically? Check out this rundown from the Washington Post). Malware is a common computer issue, and one that is growing. It can cause serious problems, from shutting down internet browsers to locking down whole computers, forcing users to wipe their hard drives and start over—that’s something no indexer wants to deal with, especially on a deadline. Recently, Richard Shrout, PI founding partner, had a frustrating encounter with Trovi, a malicious adware application that hijacks browser search functions.
How does this happen? This kind of malware often comes bundled with other freeware downloads—that is, when you download free software, it’s included in the package, much like unrelated policy riders attached to Congressional budgets. Many of these malware or spyware programs are browser plug-ins or browser helper objects—they attach to your browser software.
In fact, that’s what happened here. Richard was unable to update any of his browsers. Not Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Firefox. They all had the same error message—not receiving correct information from a trusted source. The https had a red line through it. Only one computer was affected, leading him to realize there must be something wrong with his computer.
In this particular case, the malware only affected the browsers, but that did mean no email, no Google searches, no new software.
Because the malware targets browsers and not operating systems, it’s catholic in its impact. PC, Mac, you name it—if you use a browser, you could be targeted. The good news is that it is fairly easy to get rid of if you have the right tools.
Finally, always look carefully at all screens during downloads and don’t accept anything other than what was originally intended and download only from trusted sources. Keep your operating system and system files up to date, and if your antivirus software doesn’t protect against malware, make sure you get something that does. Keep that protection updated, too, and make sure to run it regularly. It’s worth repeating: Update everything regularly.
Here are some other recommendations from Richard:
This site contains a comprehensive library of virus and malware removal guides. I used advice from Malwaretips.com which proved to be accurate and reliable. And I joined that group for future advice. They appear to be the good guys.
It performed as expected and really did a thorough job. And there was no cost and no hint of an upgrade to a better package that would do more. The Internet is very much like life with both good and bad out there. I was very happy to find some support from good people.
One selling point for Malwarebytes, which costs $33 per year for a complete version, is that it also protects against ransomware, which is something new. Indexers are businesses and our files are important. Malwarebytes can be tested in an almost complete version for free for 14 days. If you decide not to pay, you can still run the free version on your own. The free version does a full scan and also removes the bad files, and it’s also available for Mac.