malware and virus removal services for baltimore

Viruses, Malware, and Spooky Stuff

At some time or another, everyone with an internet connected computer will be infected with malware. We often get asked, “what is malware and what can I do to prevent it?” Malware just means bad software. It’s the catch-all category for viruses, trojans, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), worms, trojan downloaders, adware, spyware, ransomware, and more. At best, malware is merely bothersome, producing an occasional ad, toolbar, or nagging popup. At worst, malware can destroy, encrypt, and steal your data, possibly for the purposes of extortion or  identity theft. Sometimes it’s just to be cruel.

viruses are an unfortunately common side effect of the internet

Thankfully, most malware is benign, but even minor infections can disrupt sensitive computer operations. Windows 7, for example, has an estimated 17 million lines of code. As you can imagine, it doesn’t take much monkeying around to cripple something so wonderfully complex. Some of the more common instances of malware are fully developed – if unwanted – programs called PUPs (potentially unwanted programs). PUPs often masquerade as anti-virus or system tune-up programs with generic names like “System Tune Up Pro” or “Regclean Super Performance”. They make audacious claims about their effectiveness, falsely promoting how many thousands of computer problems they fixed or detected, sometimes co-promoting other software to help fix more problems. Some PUPs claim to be from Microsoft or Apple and their staff will sometimes call your home to promote their shoddy product. Because PUPs are so convincingly packaged, users don’t seem to notice that they actually do nothing, and might even be the thing messing up your computer – which it then pretends to fix. Like good snake oil salesmen, malware developers are both the problem and the “cure”, trapping users into an expensive and frustrating cycle.

32 percent of the world's computers are infected with malware

I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.

Stephen Hawking

last year 27,000,000 new strains of malware were invented

Malware is a broad category which includes dozens of different types, but the two worst offenders are viruses and trojans. Viruses are able to self-replicate and spread via email, thumb drives, websites, from file to file, and countless other ways. Much of the time, the end user has no idea they’re floating about. That is until your computer panics or your anti-virus alerts you to a problem. Trojans enjoy more power over the computer, but have to trick the user into providing them that power. Trojans, like the famed Trojan Horse, introduce themselves as being harmless or helpful, sometimes tucked away in an email, image, or program. Once opened, a trojan will release a payload which is designed to exploit some security weakness in your computer or network, granting access to hackers who can create all kinds of havoc. Thankfully, most anti-virus are well equipped to deal with this evolving threat, but hackers make good money staying on the cutting edge. They’re always just a little bit ahead of the curve, requiring that a professional sometimes be called upon to treat more resilient problems.

most families report receiving heavy spam

The consequences of an infection range from mildly irritating to very severe. On the lighter end is spam. If you have an email address, you have likely received spam – unsolicited and unwanted emails – at some time or another. It’s estimated that as much as one third of global internet traffic is the result of compromised computer networks, called botnets, sending spam. Hackers hoping to make extra money will release a trojan onto the internet, infecting countless unprotected computers. Once infected, hackers use the amassed computers’ internet connections to nefarious ends, usually to mail spam or something more immediately damaging called a DDOS attack (direct denial of service attack). Botnets can be massive, comprised of thousands of infected computers, and are regularly used by cyber-vigilantes and criminals to shut down or disrupt businesses. The cyber-group Anonymous loves using botnets to attack businesses that disagree with their unique brand of mob idealism, including Visa, Paypal, the RIAA, and countless others. Global threats like this result from weak security, making it every computer user’s responsibility to keep their software current and treat malware infections immediately, lest your computer become slave to the botnet overlords.

we measure how much money we waste on malware and compare that weight to other big things... just to be silly

We know that malware can be inconvenient, frustrating, and downright devastating. It’s also very, very expensive for Americans. Like other illnesses, untreated infections won’t just go away on their own. Malware leaves your computer vulnerable to other infections, worsening with time, letting other viruses in through the backdoor. Left unchecked, this mountain of problems can result in unrecoverable data, stolen information, and occasionally damaged hardware. The moment you suspect a problem, contact a professional to treat your computer and data with the respect your beloved computer deserves.

Poindexter offers always free consultations and low-cost diagnostic and recovery options for all computer types. With general services starting at $29.95 and virus removal at only $69.95, there’s no need to wait. To learn more about Poindexter’s tech support services and pricing, visit our full page.