Where the Malware Hides – (It’s not where you think!)

5 tips for avoiding those nasty hackers.

Even the savviest of technology users have fallen victim to accidentally getting malware on their computer.  The typical sequence of events goes as follows: The user comes in with PC in hand, lugging all of their computer media with their heads down in shame and wonderment. “How did this happen?” “I don’t go on any bad websites!” They always want me to be well aware that they didn’t go on any “bad websites.”  The obvious culprits are adult content, pharmaceuticals, and/or gambling sites. But malware can hide in otherwise benign websites, too.  A hacker’s goal is to cover large ground with popular websites that have low security. They do this by targeting top visited sites, continually disguising their malware to look like legitimate downloads, and improving these methods by trial and error.

Here are 5 otherwise benign websites, where malware may be hiding:

1. Celebrity Gossip Websites

Some of the most popular search terms have to do with celebrity news.  Intel has put together a list of the top ten most dangerous celebs to search online.  Are your employees searching these celebrities online at work?

2. Movie/Music Downloads i.e. Torrents.

Torrent movie/music downloads are different than iTunes or other paid downloads.  Basically, torrents are free files containing movies, music and sometimes software that has been shared in a peer-to-peer network.  These files are typically pirated and/or infringe upon intellectual property rights.   This is an unmonitored forum, so some files may be disguised as the latest movie, when in fact they are malware downloads.

3. Fake Software Downloads/Updates

Have you ever gotten a pop-up from a reputable antivirus company that is NOT installed on your PC that says “You have x number of viruses.  Click here to clean up.” Or perhaps you’ve seen a no name search engine toolbar that snuck in during another software install.  These are malware downloads disguised as legitimate downloads. The best way to safeguard yourself from these fake software downloads is to just go to the direct website and grab the download yourself. Any website can display fake software downloads/updates.

4. Social Media

One out of five businesses are infected by Malware through Social Media.  Malware can come in a multitude of ways through social media via ads, messages or hyperlinks in posts.  Anything with a hyperlink can be malware or can lead you to download malware.  Hackers love Twitter because it shortens URLs, so the new shortened URL does not reveal any information as to where the hyperlink will take you. Almost everyone is on some type of social media; even your grandparents are on Facebook these days.  Social Media’s popularity is the reason why malware breeds and thrives on these sites.

5. Online Storage

Not all online storage solutions are created equal, but all are susceptible to getting malware attacks.  If the endpoint, i.e. pc and/or laptop, gets malware, and an online storage solution is mapped to that endpoint, then your online storage can also be compromised.  Other more malicious infiltration methods include hackers who crack passwords, access your data, and use your data against you either through sharing or ransomware, in which case they will literally hold your data hostage for a fee.  Some solutions include setting complex passwords, changing those passwords often, installing a reliable backup system and replicating your data.  Also, make sure to log out and don’t save passwords if you are accessing your data on a public computer.

Preventing yourself or your employees from accessing these sites can be close to impossible.  Bryley Systems does offer Secure Network, a managed security service that can deter these malware attacks from occurring and will manage the entire process!  For details, please call 978.562.6077 or email BusinessDevelopment@Bryley.com.