Why Your Business Should Conduct Regular Security Assessments Reason #3 – Hidden Viruses

img blog 3 Hidden Viruses r1

The cyber security measures you have in place for your business should include regular security assessments to identify internal and external security threats. If neglected, the impact of data loss or corruption from hardware failure, human error, natural disasters, cyber crime, and infected software could have a significant impact on your business. In this article, we will talk about hidden viruses. These clever cyber bugs just might surprise you!

What is a Computer Virus and How Does it Spread?

According to Microsoft, a computer virus is a small software program that spreads from one computer to another and interferes with computer operations. A computer virus might corrupt or delete data on a computer, use an email program to spread the virus to other computers, or even delete everything on the hard disk.

Computer viruses are frequently spread by attachments in email messages or by instant messaging messages. Therefore, you must never open an email attachment unless you know who sent the message or you are expecting the email attachment.

Viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files. Computer viruses also spread through downloads on the Internet. They can be hidden in pirated software or in other files or programs that you might download.

What are Hidden Viruses?

Kaspersky describes them this way, Stealth is the term used to describe techniques that make malware inconspicuous – that is, to conceal any changes made by the malware to the infected system.

A stealth virus can infect a computer system in a number of ways: For instance, when a user downloads a malicious email attachment, it installs malware masquerading as programs from websites, or uses unverified software infected with malware. Similar to other viruses, it can take over a wide variety of system tasks and can affect the computer’s performance.

When performing such tasks, antivirus programs detect the malware, but the stealth virus is designed to actively remain hidden from antivirus programs. It accomplishes this by temporarily moving itself away from the infected file, copying itself to another drive and replacing itself with a clean file. The stealth virus can also avoid detection by concealing the size of the file it has infected.

How to Tell if Your Computer Has a Hidden Virus

In an article by The New Daily they say, Most viruses are designed to remain hidden, drawing as little attention to their existence as possible. They infiltrate your hard drive, appearing like a normal file and slowly go about their nefarious ways. Of course, there is also malware designed to do just the opposite; pose as a legitimate program and hide in plain sight.

The following signs may be signs that you’ve been compromised…

  • Signs of slowing. Unfortunately, there are many pieces of malware around that are designed to simply annoy, such as endlessly replicating files to fill up hard drive space and slow down your PC.
  • You shall not pass. Have passwords stopped working for programs or websites you’ve previously been able to access? It could be that a virus is present and locking you out of programs and files.
  • Not-so-social media. Your social media accounts get hacked, with the culprit leaving all manner of posts and updates under your name. It could be that malware has been harvesting login credentials from your PC and sending them to a malicious actor.
  • With friends like these. Your friends and family may begin receiving emails or messages from you that you never sent.
  • One person’s trash. Files can start behaving oddly, like appearing in the trash when you never deleted them, or becoming corrupted so they cannot be used at all.
  • Faking it. You suddenly get anti-virus warnings popping up on your desktop, but you don’t have anti-virus software installed. This is a ruse to encourage you to install malware, usually instigated by another piece of malware.
  • Just Google it. Your web browser may start redirecting searches to another search engine, usually with a strange name.
  • Some other things to look for: Pop-up messages that appear out of nowhere and are hard to remove. Unrecognized computer programs launching on their own. The sound of the hard drive in constant action.

The DON’TS for Hidden Viruses

In excerpts from an article by Nerds On Call, they suggest the following…

Imagine starting up your system one fine morning only to discover that everything appears to be missing – your files, installed programs, even your Start menu shortcuts. If you’re one of the many people who’ve recently become victims of the “Hidden Files Virus,” this scenario may be a painful reality.

The good news: your files aren’t actually gone for good. The bad news: your system has a virus and getting your files back will require some work. Before you call a professional to restore you data, there are some things you should NOT do…

A few things NOT to do:

  • DON’T install any “anti-virus” or “removal utility” program that presents itself in the form of a pop-up, dialog box or unclosable message on your screen. In many cases, the virus has come onto your PC via a trial installation of a program claiming to be an anti-virus or utility program (for example, an application promising to optimize your hard drive or speed up your PC). Once infected, the program seems to be the only way to get your files back, but it is in fact the source of the problem.
  • DON’T pay for any program claiming it can clean the infection off your PC.  The program itself is the virus and it’s holding you hostage by hiding your files. That’s how it extorts money from victims. Giving your credit card number to the same nefarious individuals that have created a virus to con you, is quite possibly the worst thing you can do.  
  • DON’T run a registry or temporary file cleaning tool (like CCleaner). In most cases, your settings and recovery data are in this folder.  If you “clean” (i.e. permanently delete) the contents of your temporary folders you may lose your data for good.

Prevention is Key - 10 Things You Should Do Now

According to excerpts from an article by CLA, Your data, identity, and money can be stolen easier than you might think. Phishing schemes, viruses, worms, ransomware, and spyware are just a few of the ways that threat actors (hackers) can compromise your computer and network, which can affect you and your company financially.

Although there are numerous ways in which you can be attacked or exploited, there are also many ways you can help protect yourself and your company from cyber threats…

Require employees to use strong passwords and change them periodically

Creating a strong computer password or phrase is perhaps the easiest way to enhance the security of your system. Set up a complex password or phrase from 8 to 64 alphanumeric characters, and use special characters such as “#@*&.” Remember, passwords should never be written down and stored near your device.

At Adaptive Office Solutions, we suggest using Keeper Security. Keeper manages your passwords to prevent data breaches, improve employee productivity, cut helpdesk costs, and meet compliance standards.

Install anti-virus software

Anti-virus software actively scans for viruses trying to invade your email, system files, or operating system. Choose a quality software package, keeping in mind the reputation of the company and product, features of the software (e.g., daily updates), and compatibility with your computer.

Install anti-spyware and anti-malware software

Most people prefer to simply purchase an anti-virus software, with spyware and malware scanning and removal capabilities, but no one piece of software can find and remove everything. Employ a multi-layered approach to securing your computer system.

Perform daily full system scans

Viruses, spyware, and malware are continually evolving. As a result, they can sometimes evade your protection methods and infect your computer system. Implement daily scans via your anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware software to find, quarantine, and remove any malicious agents in your network before any (or further) damage is done.

Create a periodic system backup schedule

Many types of malicious agents can destroy the contents inside your computer. Consider backup options like a cloud service or a personal external hard drive. A cloud service allows you to back up your data online, in real time. A personal external hard drive can be hooked up to your computer so you can copy your updated files manually.

Regularly update your computer system

It is very important to run regular computer system updates to repair any bugs and abnormalities within the system. If you don’t allow system updates, the abnormalities and bugs that remain in your system can be exploited by hackers. Make sure you allow updates as soon as they are released.

Use your firewall

A network firewall is an essential tool that acts as a perimeter around your computer and blocks unauthorized incoming and outgoing access. When setting up or configuring a computer, take advantage of the built-in firewall capabilities of the operating system.

Use email with caution

Hackers can exploit email in many ways — hiding viruses in attachments, for example. Do not open or read emails from email addresses you don’t recognize. Delete them from your inbox immediately, and empty your email trash.

Use the internet with caution

Even the safest websites can contain spyware and malware. All it takes is one click of the mouse for your computer to become infected. Many phony websites are camouflaged to mimic authentic websites. Make sure there is a “lock” icon on the far left side of the search bar. It can be found just before the address in the search cell.

When entering URLs, check the name and correct spelling of the website. Avoid clicking on pop ups, ads, graphics, and links to other websites.

Research basics of computer security

Computer security starts with the user. If your company does not have a security awareness program in place, it should be considered. Being properly educated can help employees understand how to protect their company’s computer network. Take it upon yourself to research basic aspects of computer security — it will go a long way in helping you make smarter decisions when protecting your network.

Data that could historically be addressed with IT risk management, now needs to be protected by well-trained cyber security professionals, revolutionary software applications, and rigorous cyber attack prevention. Don’t wait until it’s too late!