Like iPhones, laptops, and useful programs, viruses and malware are constantly evolving. Today’s IT provider has to stay three steps ahead of hackers and malicious programs. A virus can make a computer slow, buggy, or even unusable. For the average Joe, viruses are a nuisance. For business owners, they can be catastrophic.
Luckily, modern IT technology like antivirus and anti-malware is constantly evolving, too! At Grand Technology Solutions, we offer solutions to technology issues that would normally bring a business day to a grinding halt. With GTS, your data and productivity is in good hands. If your business computers are acting suspicious, we can intervene and catch a virus before it can cause damage.
So, what does a virus look like, anyway?
Not all viruses and malware show up as an encrypted email demanding a wire transfer to an overseas bank. In fact, most malicious programs are subtle enough to blame on aging technology. It’s important to keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs up to date (something GTS can do for you as part of our remote monitoring and management subscriptions). A virus that infects one machine could easily spread to another without the proper protections. Especially for businesses that share an internal network, email server, or other system, knowing the signs of a malware infection can be half the battle.
Here are 7 signs your computer or business network might have been compromised:
- Performance is unusually slow. A brand new laptop shouldn’t overheat trying to open a Word document. Malicious programs take up a lot of storage space – that’s what most of them are designed to do. Especially if your business computer was performing at its best a week ago, slow performance could be a sign that malware or a virus is gumming up your system.
- You’re plagued by pop-ups and other ads. Ah, adware. Believe it or not, most work computers don’t give you frequent alerts to “meet singles in your area.” Adware is a type of malware that generates advertising revenue for a hacker by displaying ads to a captive audience – you! Besides being annoying, pop-ups and other ads can link to other malicious websites, which could download much more problematic programs onto a computer.
- Your computers randomly crash in the middle of normal activity. Why is your computer suddenly having trouble launching InDesign on Wednesday when it ran perfectly on Monday? Sometimes, this can simply be due to an uninstalled update. Other times, however, viruses can be responsible for crashes. If your computer is shutting off, rebooting with the “blue screen of death,” and experiencing unexpected shutdowns when running everyday programs, it could be a sign of malware.
- When you open a browser, your homepage is different, or you get automatically redirected to a different site. Some malicious programs are designed to change your computer settings, directing you to other malicious websites or annoying sites that generate revenue for the hacker. Most businesses have formatted employee web browsers to open a certain collection of tabs at launch. If you were expecting the company website and instead found yourself facing a knock-off search engine full of ads, this could be a symptom of malware.
- You get strange system error messages while you work. Have you ever been in the middle of a presentation and a weird message pops up announcing something totally unrelated? Something like, “The operation could not be performed because there is no folder named ‘Xdryzzb.’” This could be a sign of a virus trying to make system changes behind the scenes. A similar case is when your antivirus or anti-malware program suddenly announces that it’s been disabled. Antivirus is designed to run around the clock – if it’s suddenly turning itself off, that could be a sign of a technical system error or something more sinister.
- Internet traffic is unusually high. Some malicious programs are programmed to download other malicious programs onto computers or networks. If Internet traffic is unusually high but there are no planned downloads or uploads running, it could be a sign that malware is hijacking your connection.
- Your clients receive strange messages from you that you didn’t send. The email era makes it easy for hackers to pretend to be someone they’re not. A popular form of email scam is something called “CEO fraud,” in which a hacker spoofs a high-ranking company employee’s email address (something like firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com) and uses the fake email address to wheedle money or information out of other company employees. In general, safe browsing habits and double verification can stop email scams in their tracks. (For example, employees should never email credit card or bank info, but it’s also a good idea to enact a double-check policy: if someone requests sensitive data via email, employees should know to follow up by phone or in person before actually sending.) However, some viruses spread through emailed links or infected files, and can automatically replicate and send themselves out again from an infected email account. This can be particularly dangerous for businesses that share an email server, since once a hacker has access to one company email address, it becomes much easier to fool actual employees.
So, what do I do if I think my computer is infected?
The most important thing is to call your managed IT provider. At GTS, we can perform a full system sweep with high-quality antivirus and anti-malware programs. In the worst cases, we can restore your computer to an earlier state before it picked up a virus, removing the malicious programs without risking your files.
It’s important to note that the only complete protection from malicious programs is a frequently updated backup. Keeping your files safe in an online or external storage system means that you have access to them at any time – and if your computer or network is suddenly compromised, you don’t have to worry about losing weeks or years of data to a virus.
At GTS, we offer strong solutions to everyday tech issues. As part of our monthly remote monitoring and management subscriptions, we keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs up to date and performing at their best. We take the stress out of your IT services so you can focus on running your business. Give us a call at (904) 606-6011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (that’s the REAL email address!) to learn more.