Category Archives: How To

Security or compliance? Stop choosing between them

The difference between security and compliance is more than just process. It’s philosophy and practice. Compliance can be one tactical execution of a great security strategy or potentially a bureaucratic check-the-box effort. While security and compliance share similar goals, IT too often meets specific requirements for system compliance but misses the underlying security needs of the whole organization. I’ve been in the InfoSec space for more than 20 years, and I’ve seen so many smart, … More

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Securing modern web apps: A case for framework-aware SAST

If you were to write a web application entirely by yourself, it would be a rather daunting task. You would need to write the UI elements from lower-level APIs, set up and manage the database connections, manage the HTTP requests and replies, and so on. Then there is the application code itself and its business logic. Maintaining this application release after release would be another onerous task. Thankfully, this isn’t how web applications are written. … More

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Do you have what it takes to be a hardware hacker?

If you ask Yago Hansen, a hacker specialized in Wi-Fi and RF security, curiosity and a willingness to learn and improve your skills are the two things that you absolutely must have to embark on a (white hat) hacking career. A love for money, on the other hand, is not. “In my mind, hackers are security researchers who spend a lot of their life in testing, learning and getting better at what they do because … More

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How to Choose the Best Antivirus for Windows – Your Ultimate Antivirus Software Guide [Updated 2019]

So, you’re trying to find the best antivirus for Windows. I know, there are so many options out there, and probably you have no idea where to start. In this guide, I will touch on subjects such as the definition of an antivirus, what are its functionalities, and also what you should be looking for when choosing one.

What is antivirus software and what antivirus should I use?

Antivirus has always been the go-to solution to fight malicious software and cybercriminal tactics. And it still is. Malware, phishing scams, ransomware, DDoS – these are just a handful of the threats that lurk on the Internet.

Antivirus definition

But let’s start off with the basics: what exactly is an antivirus software and what does it do?

Antivirus
The definition of antivirus software programs goes something like this: A piece of software designed block out viruses and other malware from entering your device and compromising your personal data or the hardware itself.

A good antivirus is a must-have. It minimizes the times you have to enter damage control mode to clean up the mess caused by a successful malware attack.

Before you proceed in your journey to find your dream security software, let’s see how exactly an antivirus works.

How does antivirus software work? Things you should know about AV before getting one

Virus scanner and script blocking

Reactive scanning is the bread and butter of an antivirus. Basically, it scans any new program or file before it’s opened and checks if it is a known malware or if it behaves like one.

It’s all done in the background, and the scanned file or program only opens once the antivirus has finished the scan.

Then there is the full system scan, where the antivirus goes through every nook and cranny of your device in order to find malware or any other suspicious software or files.

Some AVs also block malicious ActiveX or Java scripts from infecting your PC. Plugins based on these technologies can be used to make your PC part of a botnetinject code or do drive-by downloads.

What to look for:

Ideally, the scanner should be lightweight and not hog down your device while still having a very high detection and block rate.

Database of known malware

However, scans cannot be effective if the program doesn’t know what it’s looking for. That’s why every antivirus software comes with a database of known malware and compares each scanned file to the contents of the database.

This database is updated very frequently, quite often on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why we always advocate for people to keep their software updated, particularly their antivirus.

Updated software goes a long way to protect you on the Internet since it greatly diminishes the possibility of malicious hackers exploiting an unpatched vulnerability of your software.

But antivirus programs also make use of something called “heuristic analysis”. This means that it will consider a file to be malware if it behaves like one, even if it can’t be found in its database. This is one reason why some AVs falsely classify some safe programs such as Chrome as a virus. The industry calls this a “false positive” and it is a criterion used to judge the quality of an antivirus.

Automatic updates

Any antivirus software worth its salt will automatically update itself, both to clean up any vulnerabilities it might have and to keep its virus database and capabilities up to date. Basically, the quicker and more frequent the updates, the better.

Malware removal

Sometimes, removing malware can be just as important as blocking it in the first place. Usually, the cybersecurity industry sees the two functions as being separate. That’s why many of the free AV’s out there can only detect and block malware, but won’t be able to remove it if your PC is infected.

For that, you will most likely have to purchase the full antivirus solution or download a separate piece of software specializing in malware removal.

Other features you should look for

Ransomware protection: Some antiviruses come with ransomware protection and the ransomware attacks won’t be able to encrypt your files.

File shredder: This may come as a shock, but the standard “Delete” + “Clear Recycle Bin” won’t actually delete a file from your hard drive. It will just make it invisible for you to see. But these files can be recovered with a specialized program.

Under normal circumstances, these invisible files disappear only after being pushed out of their memory block by a new one. But file shredders destroy them completely and leave no trace of them on your hard drive.

Firewall: Some AV’s can filter and scan your internet traffic to detect incoming threats before they reach your device.

Other features to look forDNS Protection, Password Managers, System Optimization, Phishing protection, Antispam, Browser protection.

Test the antivirus to be sure it works

Sometimes you’ll go through a long period where you don’t encounter any online threats and seem to forget that you even have an antivirus installed.

“Is it still alive?” you may ask.

Well, there’s a test you can do to see if it still works.

So how do you test your antivirus to see if it’s still active?

Basically, you have to create a “false virus” that triggers your AV’s defense procedures.

What you need to do is to create an antivirus test file (a .txt file). A simple notepad document will do just fine.

Then you will need to use a standardized EICAR code. This is something recognized by all antivirus developers as a means of testing if their software is active.

Your antivirus should trigger immediately and activate its security protocols to eliminate the “fake virus”.

If it doesn’t, then that means your software is inactive/disabled.

What’s the best antivirus you could use?

Now that you know what to look for in an antivirus, it’s time to find out which one you should use.

Here are 3 ways you can find the best free or paid antivirus for you:

  • User opinions
  • Independent testing
  • Expert reviews

How to choose the best antivirus

 

1. User comparison and reviews for the best antivirus for Windows

The major benefit user comparisons and reviews of antivirus software are that you can get a sense of how the product performs in real life. A comparison can help you figure out which is the best antivirus program for you.

Security forums

Cybersecurity forums are still some of the best places you can check to find good and trustworthy reviews and comparisons of antivirus software.


This is where you should look to find the best antivirus for Windows
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For example, the links below will point you to some of the best security forums in the online, where you can find a great number of user reviews and good (or bad) experiences users had with security products:

Quora

For those who don’t know, Quora is a questions & answers site. Basically, you ask a question and (generally) qualified users answer them. Or you can just browse questions similar to yours and see if you find an answer there.

The website is designed so you can quickly access your areas of interest. Search the site for the following categories: Computer Security, Anti-Virus Software or Internet Security or just use these links:

As you can see, these topics are followed by thousands of people, so it should be pretty easy to find the information you need. Here are some starting points that can help you find your best antivirus program.

Reddit

A treasure of the Internet hidden in plain sight. Ask Reddit users to compare various antivirus software and you will end up with a very lively conversation among users that covers almost every antivirus program imaginable. ‘Redditors’ will talk at length about the pros and cons of one antivirus or another.

Trustpilot

Reviews of antivirus programs are another way to choose the product that fits your needs. Most people read the reviews on the developer’s page, but it’s impossible to be sure which review is real and which isn’t.

Trustpilot offers a way around this since it is an independent reviews platform. Basically, users can post without worrying they will have their negative comment deleted by developers who jealously guard the brand name of an otherwise poor product.

2. An antivirus test can tell you all you need to know

Reviewers know which antivirus is better at blocking and eliminating malware by thoroughly testing them. By using the same antivirus testing sites, you can get a better picture of what the AV you want is capable of.

For the best results, antivirus tests have to be as objective as possible.

Virus BulletinFor example, Virus Bulletin is an important benchmarking and comparison site for the entire antivirus industry. It measures just about everything you can think of, including install times, scan speed, stability, performance impact, false positives, detection rate, and so on.

On the VB Testing page, you will see an overview of Virus Bulletin’s testing and certification services: VB100, VBSpam, VBWeb.

This time, we will take a look at VB100, the rigorous testing standard that made Virus Bulletin such a go-to resource for antivirus comparisons.

For the in-depth results, go to the “Latest Report” page.

This is a list of antivirus software that passed Virus Bulletin’s extensive tests. On the left of the table, you can select what indicators you want to measure.

Just about every single aspect of an antivirus you can think of, with all of them being measured. This will give you the most complete opinion of what software can, or cannot do.

3. Look for expert reviews

Here are a few websites where you can find thorough reviews of antivirus solutions.

PC World. It offers reviews and buying advice on both software and hardware. On this website, you can also find some pretty good deals as well.

Techradar. This portal provides in-depth software and hardware reviews to help you buy the best product for your needs.

Softpedia. For a lot of people, Softpedia is a one-stop-shop for many of their software needs. They have a huge list of around 600 various free or paid antivirus software and programs available for download. A great resource point if you want to take your time and just browse at your own pace.

Obviously, there are so many other review websites out there, so feel free to do your own research.

Make sure you check how serious the AV developer is about security

Checking a few details on the antivirus developer’s website and patch notes can help you get a better idea of how seriously they approach updates and bug hunting.

For example, highly detailed patch notes will give you a better picture of what you can expect from the company in terms of reliability. And this applies for other types of software as well, not just antivirus or other security solutions.

This article includes very useful tips to help fill in the blanks in your research.

After you’ve gone through these resources, most probably:

  1. You’ll know which are the best antivirus for Windows of 2019.
  2. You’ll understand what each program is capable of.
  3. You’ll be aware of the most important security features an antivirus should have.
  4. You’ll own a shiny new antivirus.
  5. Somewhere out there, a piece of malware cries because it can’t infect your PC anymore…

Final Words

Most antivirus programs now come with a trial testing period to help you decide if you actually want it or not. The trial period is especially useful if you have doubts about a certain product or you can’t decide between two or more AVs and want to see them in action.

Keep in mind though that using two or more antivirus programs at the same time isn’t a good idea. The antiviruses will end up thinking each other is a malware, or compete in order to eliminate viruses and significantly drag down your device performance.

But in all of our blog posts, we always emphasize two things:

First, security software alone can’t keep you safe online. It’s a widespread belief in the cybersecurity field that the best antivirus is you, meaning your judgment and general internet savviness should always come first.

Second, a standard antivirus solution is not enough to keep you safe. We and most antivirus developers encourage you to use multiple security layers to stay safe. If malware passes one layer, they will have to face another, and with each new step chances of infection drop dramatically.

Also, make sure you check out our Thor Premium Home, which is more than a standard antivirus, offering a proactive approach to your security.

Thor Premium Home the best antivirus for WindowsFree Trial

  • You get a full endpoint detection and response (EDR) solution – it brings together unique threat prevention (Thor Foresight Home) complemented by a powerful Next-gen Antivirus (Thor Vigilance Home).
  • It’s lightweight on your computer resources while it still has very high detection and block rates.
  • Automatically updates your applications so infections don’t happen via vulnerabilities or exploits.
  • Detects, blocks malware, and removes it if your PC is already infected.
  • Offers ransomware and phishing protection and keeps you safe in front of the most advanced online threats.
  • Allows you to click any link with confidence without being worried you’ll get infected with malware.
  • Free Trial and 30-day Money Back Guarantee.
  • Certified by Virus Bulletin as of April 2019 with 100% detection rate.
  • Don’t believe us? Hear directly from our customers why we offer one of the best antivirus and anti-malware solutions.

This article was initially written by Aurelian Neagu in 2014 and was updated by Paul Cucu in November 2016 and by Bianca Soare in July 2019.

The post How to Choose the Best Antivirus for Windows – Your Ultimate Antivirus Software Guide [Updated 2019] appeared first on Heimdal Security Blog.

How to Remove Malware from Your Windows PC [Updated 2019]

Malware infection. You might think it will never happen to you. Until it does and you don’t know exactly what to do. How do you actually remove malware? Maybe you’ll ask your tech-savvy friend how to remove malware or you’ll try to clean the PC by yourself. Or perhaps you’ll address this issue on a security forum where other people encountered the same problem.

Warning signs: You’ve noticed your PC has started to slow down, it crashes often, pop-ups appear randomly in your browser, or that unusual apps start automatically.

All these signs can tell that your computer is infected with malware.

So, a malware infection has taken your computer hostage.

What do you do now?

In this article, I’ll walk you through all the steps you need to follow so you can easily clean up and restore your PC to a functional state.

Step 1. Back up all your documents and files before you start removing the malware infection.

Regardless of your malware infection, the first thing to do is backup all your important files and documents. You can do that by saving your essential data on the external source such as DVD/CDs, free cloud storage services, USB sticks or external drives. Use this guide to better back up your online data.

By performing a backup process, you can save your essential data on an external source to keep it safe. You can do this manually or automatically and we recommend using software backup tools.

Step 2. Enter your PC in Safe Mode with Networking

Here’s what you should do:

  • Unplug DVDs, CDs or other USB drives from your PC and then shut it down.
  • Restart by pressing F8 key over and over again until it takes you to the Safe Mode with Networking.
  • This will make your system boot up only critical processes and prevent certain malware infections from starting up.

Safe Mode Windows

If you are using Windows 8 and/or Windows 10, here’s how you can start your PC in Safe Mode. For older versions of Windows, such as Windows 7 or XP, follow these steps.

Step 3. Delete your temporary files.

To make the scanning process smoother and simpler, you should delete all unessential temporary files from your computer.

You can do this by right-clicking on a Windows drive, such as C:/ or D:/ – > Properties -> Disk Cleanup. From the Menu, choose which files you want to delete and remove.

Step 4. How to remove malware with an anti-malware tool.

In order to clean up your PC, you’ll need some specialized software to find and clean up the malicious items. Here’s a list of all the software you can use.

Thor Premium Home is completely free for the first 30 days and you can cancel your subscription anytime you want. This is a powerful anti-malware solution which will both remove malware and stop any other possible future infections.

Thor Premium Home how to remove malware
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Once Thor Premium Home starts, it will enable automatic, real-time scanning and all the infected files can be removed using Thor Vigilance Home, the next-gen AV tool included in the Thor Premium Home package. You can also choose to perform scans by yourself and delete the infections.

how to remove malware with Thor Premium Home

It’s that easy. Now, your computer is clean and kept away from any type of malware, viruses, ransomware, phishing attacks, and many other online threats.

SUPERAntispyware malware tool has a free edition that can detect different forms of malicious software, adware, and spyware, and efficiently scan and remove unwanted files from your PC. You can control the scanning options by choosing which files you want the tool to analyze. Scans will be performed manually, but the full control over scans makes it a good choice for users.

Kaspersky TDSSKiller is a free malware removal tool for Windows. It was designed to remove the rootkits which are malicious malware that boots up at the same time as your PC and hide the activity of other malicious software. Rootkits can gain access to administrator rights on an infected computer and provide deeper access to other types of malware. Online attackers can maintain the infection for a long time and are difficult to find and remove.

Malwarebytes anti-malware tool can detect, scan and remove malicious software found on your PC.  It is free for a limited period of time and has a 14 day free trial with full features such as malware removal, ransomware protection, rooter killer and even a repair function for any damaged files. Use the “Start Scan” button to help you remove and kill any malware found with a manual scan. We recommend running this program at least once a week to check things you might have missed or when you notice your PC runs slowly or acts strangely.

ADWCleaner is a free software tool specialized in removing adware, browser hijackers and other potentially unwanted malicious programs that have infected your browser. The product was acquired by Malwarebytes in 2016 and includes features like toolbar removal functionality, light footprint.

If you’ve been using Junkware removal tool for a while, you should know that Malwarebytes has chosen to discontinue development for this free software. However, Malwarebytes “will continue to provide service and support for JRT until End of Life (EOL) on April 26, 2018.” As an alternative, you can use the free ADWCleaner tool that includes all major JRT features.

Here’s a list of malware removal online tools you can use to protect your computer:

Product name Suitable for: Availability Price
Hitman PRO Beginners Windows OS Free 30-day trial
RKill  Beginners Windows XP/ Vista/ Win 7/ Win 8/ Windows 10 Free
Avira PC Cleaner Beginners Windows Free
Microsoft Safety Scanner Beginners Windows 7 / Vista / XP Free
TrendMicro HouseCall Beginners MacOSX / Windows Free
Emisoft Emergency Kit Beginners Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 Free
Spybot Search & Destroy Beginners Windows Free
CCleaner * Beginners Windows Free
McAfee Rootkit Remover Beginners Windows Free
IBM X-Force Exchange Malware Analysis Advanced Cloud-based Free 30-day trial

Note: CCleaner was recently compromised by cybercriminals, but the tool is safe now.

Let’s move on to one more quick step, just to be sure malware didn’t mess up your browser’s settings.

Step 5. Reset your browser settings

In many cases, malware will change your browser settings in order to re-infect your computer, show advertisements, or facilitate any other malicious downloads. This is why you need to review some of your browser settings.

Here’s how to fix browser shortcuts the malware might have altered

First of all, access your browser, Right-click on your browser, then go to Properties. 

Browser shortcut

Under the Shortcut tab, you’ll see the Target field.

Browser target

What can actually happen is that the malware might have altered the target field and included a malicious URL in it. So what happens is that now your browser will start up on this page each time you boot it up.

Normally, the browser target should look something like this:

Chrome: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe”

In our example case, the browser was targeted to go to a suspicious website, aimed at downloading malware on your PC.

Chrome properties

You can fix that by simply remove the URL that comes after .exe”.

Browser hijackers will change the homepage. 

Instead of changing the “Target” field in the “Shortcut” tab, some malware might just modify your browser homepage.

For the Chrome browser:

Go to the Settings in the top right corner of the browser. Once there, go to the On startup section. The first two options don’t have any homepage whatsoever, so you can go ahead and select either one of those.

Chrome settings in browser

If however, you want to have your own homepage, then check the option to Open a specific page or set of pages and then click on Set pages. This should take you to this window where you can add or delete malicious links sneakily set as homepage.

Hijacking chrome browser

Settings for Firefox:

You can access the Options menu in the top right corner of the browser. This will immediately take you to the General tab, where you can reset your homepage as you see fit.

Firefox settings

Malicious hackers can also take control of your accounts through session hijacking by entering the server and access its information without having to hack a registered account. Additionally, he can also make modifications on the server to help him hack it in the future or to simplify a data-stealing operation.

Verify your proxy settings

There is malware that can even change what Internet service you use to connect to the web. Simply removing the malware won’t reset these proxy settings, so it’s something you should fix before considering your PC squeaky clean.

To access your proxy settings, go to Control Panel -> Network and Internet and then press Internet Options.

proxy settings 1

In the Internet Options menu, go to the Connections tab and press the LAN settings button.

Internet properties

Make sure that Automatically detect settings is on, and that the other two options, “Use automatic configuration script” and “Use a proxy server for your LAN” are unmarked.

Here’s how your settings should look like:

LAN settings

How to make sure you’ll never get infected with malware again

Now that you’ve managed to clean up your PC and remove malware, it is important to take some protection measures to prevent getting another infection.

Some malware programs operate stealthily, and you may not know the infection is there. They don’t visibly affect your PC. Instead, they may collect sensitive information of yours such as passwords, credit card data, completed forms and screenshots.

We recommend following these protection measures to prevent getting your computer infected:

  • Use two-factor authentication management system

If among other things you were also infected with a keylogger, then there’s a high chance your passwords and accounts were compromised. One of the first things you should do is start using the two-factor authentication management system and manage your passwords safely. There is some malware that can take full control of your passwords.

This password security guide will provide all the details needed to set strong and unique passwords to prevent malicious hackers exploiting them and lock you out of your accounts. With the two-factor authentication system, you will add another layer of protection to your account.

  • Always keep your software up to date

Outdated software is one of the major cause of malware infections out there, mostly because they come with many vulnerabilities exploited by cybercriminals. Keeping up your software permanently up to date will lower the chances for malicious hackers to get inside your device or limit any possibility for them to infect computers.

We know it can become a tedious, yet necessary task to constantly update your software, particularly those that patch frequently. Thor FREE is a great solution that will automatically (and silently) update your software, without any annoying confirmation pop-ups. It’s light and unobtrusive, so it won’t slow down your system.

  • Use a complete EDR (endpoint detection and response) solution to keep malware at bay

One layer of protection is not enough, and you need multiple layers of security to better protect your PC. A traffic filtering software will nicely and efficiently complement an antivirus since it scans incoming and outgoing traffic for any malware and then blocks that traffic from entering your PC. In other words, it gets difficult for new malware to reach your device.

Thor Premium Home does everything I mentioned in the paragraph above and is able to protect you from brand new and unlisted malware that traditional antivirus software can’t detect. It will also sanitize your Internet traffic and block malicious sources, making sure you have both your financial and confidential information safely kept.

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BONUS:

I also added a list of in-depth articles we recommend reading so you can better know how to recognize different signs of malware infection and protect your computer with multiple layers of security.

This post was originally published by Paul Cucu in January 2017 and received relevant updates from Ioana Rijnetu in November 2017 and from Bianca Soare in July 2019.

The post How to Remove Malware from Your Windows PC [Updated 2019] appeared first on Heimdal Security Blog.

13+ Warning Signs that Your Computer is Malware-Infected [Updated 2019]

Here’s one of the scenarios you may not like, but which sadly, could happen to you any day. You’re working on an important project and suddenly, you start seeing annoying pop-ups showing up on your computer. More than that, it takes too long for your files or apps to load. You keep waiting until you start asking yourself: “Is my computer infected with malware?”

Unfortunately, the answer might be “yes” and your PC could be already compromised with viruses or next-gen malware that are slowing down its performance.

This is one of the many warning signs that show your PC might suffer from malware infection. But there is so much more you need to be aware of and understand, so you can quickly take action.

In this article, we’ll show you the most frequent warning signs of malware infection on computers running Microsoft Windows and what can you do about it.

Use these quick links to easily navigate and see some of the most common warning signs displayed on a computer:

  1. Your computer is slowing down
  2. Annoying ads are displayed
  3. Crashes
  4. Pop-up messages
  5. Internet traffic suspiciously increases
  6. Your browser homepage changed without your input
  7. Unusual messages show unexpectedly
  8. Your security solution is disabled
  9. Your friends say they receive strange messages from you
  10. Unfamiliar icons are displayed on your desktop
  11. Unusual error messages
  12. You can’t access the Control Panel
  13. Everything seems to work perfectly on your PC
  14. You get the error on the browser
  15. You get suspicious shortcut files

Scenario #1: “My computer applications run slowly and they take longer than usual to start.”

If you’re dealing with this scenario, it could mean you have viruses on your computer.

I know, it’s so frustrating to see it working slowly.

It’s a known fact that one of the malware’s main activity is to slow down your operating system, no matter if you’re browsing the Internet or simply accessing your local applications.

What can you do?

First, you need to investigate the causes and try to understand what is going on.

Here are some of the most common issues that slow down your PC:

1. Your system’s RAM memory is low.

This might be caused by the high number of apps you’re currently using.

Windows Task Manager will help you see which programs use the most of your RAM memory.

Press CTRL+ALT+DELETE simultaneously, choose Task Manager and a list of the current apps you have open will be shown.

2. There is no storage space on your hard disk.

In this case, you need to check all your files stored and do a clean-up.

3. Your browser may be using too many computer resources.

You can see how your browser is performing in Windows Task Manager.

What can you do about your browser’s speed?

Remove unnecessary browser add-ons. Here is a list of Chrome extensions to increase your online safety – just make sure you pick out what you really need and don’t use all of our suggestions simultaneously. Or if you don’t feel like saying goodbye to your favorite extensions, just disable them so they don’t run on each webpage.

Delete excess cache. If you’re carrying along tons of cache and browsing history, this may be the reason your browser is so slow.

Close unnecessary tabs as you open new ones. Oh, the tabs clutter, we’ve all been there. I know, you may be tricked into thinking you may actually need to go back and revisit every tab you’ve opened in a browsing session. But let’s be honest, you most probably won’t need to do it. Just keep in mind you can always reopen your recent browsing history / recently closed tabs – well unless you’re browsing in Incognito/Private mode, but that’s a different story.

4. Your system may be fragmented.

Over time, files kept on a hard drive become fragmented. In simple terms, this means that parts of these files get stored in different areas of the drive and not next to each other. Thus, the storage space is used inefficiently and reduces your PC’s performance, making it harder for your operating system to open a file.

You can fix this by using the Windows disk defragmenter (Optimize Drives).

In Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7, the defragmenter tool runs automatically, so you most probably don’t need to worry about this.

5. Your Windows OS hasn’t been updated or you’re using outdated drivers.

Always make sure your OS is constantly updated. Unpatched systems can have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malevolent actors, so make sure you’re always running the latest version of Windows.

If you have already thoroughly verified these possible causes and everything seems to work just fine, you can start considering a potential malware infection.

Scenario #2: “I keep getting annoying ads that are opening randomly or strange messages on my computer’s screen.”

Unexpected pop-ups which appear on your screen are a typical sign of a malware infection that wreaks havoc on your computer.

This form of malware is known as spyware and is designed to collect and steal users’ sensitive data without their knowledge.

In this particular case, the main issue is not only the numerous pop-up windows that affect your Internet browsing. It’s also quite difficult to remove them from your system.

These pop-ups are not only frustrating, but they usually come bundled with other concealed malware threats and can be far more destructive for your OS.

They could be disguised as legitimate programs and actually track your web browsing data or monitor your online activity to collect passwords and other personal information.

We strongly recommend to NEVER CLICK on a suspicious pop-up!

To keep your computer away from malicious threats, make sure you apply these security measures:

  1. Do not click on pop-up windows.
  2. Do not answer unsolicited emails that look strange. Always verify the sender’s email address and never open attachments or click weird links.
  3. Be very careful when you are trying to download free applications.
  4. Use a next-gen threat prevention solution that identifies online dangers and blocks them before they actually get the chance to infect your PC.

Scenario #3: “My laptop keeps crashing when I watch Youtube videos or play games. It simply freezes, then a blue screen shows up.”

So, you got the popular BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). Then it recovered and “told” you Windows was recovering from an unexpected shutdown.

There might be two things causing this type of issue:

  1. You could be dealing with a technical issue caused by a potential incompatibility between your software and/or hardware.
  2. It may be a malware issue.

If you suspect any technical problem, it could be caused by these issues:

Are different programs running on your PC that are in conflict?

Are there any orphaned registry keys which have not been removed that could eventually crash your system?

Orphaned registry keys are pieces of data that have been left behind during the process of uninstalling several programs from your computer. They don’t only take up unnecessary space on your PC but can cause a serious issue for its proper functionality.

How to fix this:

  • Use the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe)that can be opened in the search bar of Windows. From there, you select the run command.
  • For malware infections:

Run a complete scan on the system with a good antivirus product. And make sure you’ll never get infected with malware by using a complete and all-in-one security suite, that catches threats before they happen.

Scenario #4: “I started getting this popup message <You’re running out of disk space on Windows (C:)>”

If you are receiving this warning message, it means there’s no free space left on a particular partition (in this case, C) on the main hard drive on your computer. More and more users are reporting this issue.

The cause? Here’s what Microsoft has to say about this:

This behavior can occur if the free disk space on your computer has dropped below the low disk space notification threshold associated with the Disk Cleanup utility.

How do I fix this?

First of all, you need to check if your physical storage space has been increasing lately or if some of your files disappeared or changed their names.

Second, make sure you delete all those old or unnecessary files that can lower your PC’s performance.

Third, this could be another sign of malware infection. There are so many types of malicious programs which use different methods to fill up all the available space in the hard drive and cause it to crash. For this, make sure you’re using an anti-malware solution that automatically performs scans and doesn’t let any viruses or threats reach your system.

Scenario #5: “For quite some time, every time I start my PC, I notice that the Internet traffic suspiciously increases.”

Chances are there is an unusually high network activity happening on your PC that could be the cause of a malware infection.

What can I do?

Check each of these items:

  • The last Windows update for your computer
  • Is there any program or application that’s downloading any data?
  • Is there any update for a certain app running at this moment?
  • Is there a large download that you started and forgot about, which may still be running in the background?

If the answer to all these questions is NO and you can’t find a cause for your increased Internet traffic, then this may be a sign of malware infection. In this case, you should use a specialized security suite designed to address advanced and new online threats.

Scenario #6: “My homepage has changed and I don’t remember doing it myself.”

If you spotted this unusual behavior or a new toolbar is showing out of nowhere, or you’ve been redirected to a different web address different from the one you’ve initially accessed, these could be signs of malware infection.

It usually happens when you visit a website and you accidentally click on a link or a pop-up window.

This triggers the unwanted software to download and install on your device. The effects are not only annoying but also malicious and can compromise your data.

What to do?

You can always manually change your homepage address from your browser’s settings.

But the actual cause of this behavior can be, unfortunately, rooted much deeper, and be a sign of a more serious malware infection.

So, the best way to avoid compromising your files, passwords, and payment details is by using a complete, next-gen threat prevention and mitigation security solution.


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Scenario #7: “My PC is acting weird because I get unusual messages that appear unexpectedly.”

That’s usually the type of warning message that makes you wonder “What’s going on with my computer?”

Here are some frequent warning signs to watch out for:

  • Suddenly, you see programs opening and closing automatically.
  • Your Windows OS is shutting down unexpectedly, without any reason.
  • You’ve noticed strange windows showing up when your PC tries to boot.
  • Windows tells you that you’ve lost access to some of your drives.

Although the root cause may be a technical issue, it could also be a warning sign that malware has taken over your computer and is slowing down its activity.

How to mitigate the impact of a malware infection?

Follow these steps:

  1. Keep your Windows system up to date.
  2. Use an anti-malware solution that’s doesn’t give threats the chance to enter your computer.
  3. Consider reinstalling your operating system. This 13-step guide will show you how to secure your PC after a fresh (re)installation.

Scenario #8: “I use an antivirus product and keep getting the message that <Protection is disabled>.”

If you noticed your antivirus solution doesn’t seem to work anymore or the Update module is disabled, then you should check out immediately for ways to fix this.

Did you know that some types of malware are sneaky and can disable your security solution?

Well, yes, they are designed to leave users without any defense and make it difficult to detect them.

If you already tried to reboot your computer, closed and opened the security solution and all your troubleshooting efforts seemed useless, you could take into consideration the malware infection scenario.

This is especially the case because it’s a known fact that traditional antivirus solutions can’t easily detect, block or remove next-gen and advanced malware (such as ransomware, adware or financial malware).

Thus, you can get exposed to all kind of attacks, and we strongly recommend enhancing your protection by adding multiple layers of protection.

Read these 10 reasons why second-generation malware evades antivirus detection.

Scenario #9: “My friends tell me they’re getting strange random messages from me on Facebook, which I didn’t send.”

If your friends recently got several strange messages/emails or suspicious links from you, and you didn’t send them, it’s likely that you’ve been infected with malware.

Here’s a good example of malware spreading via Facebook Messenger and tricking users into clicking on links they’ve received from one of their friends.

But first, check out your online accounts and see if those random messages were actually sent from one of your accounts. If something like this happened, take immediate action by following these security measures:

  • Log out from all your accounts. For most of our online accounts, we log into multiple devices and we often forget to log out. So make sure to log out from your online accounts on all connected devices.
  • Use unique and strong passwords for all your online accounts. Always remember to change passwords! NEVER use the same password(s) for multiple accounts, because if you are hacked, all of them will be exposed and your valuable data will get stolen. This password security guide will help you master passwords like an expert.
  • Start using two-factor authentication RIGHT NOW. Do you want to increase your control over your accounts’ security? Then add this second security layer that will ask for an extra authentication step in the login process, along with your credentials.

Scenario #10: “There are these new, yet unfamiliar icons on my desktop that I don’t recognize.”

If you’ve been noticing unknown and new icons on your PC, you most likely downloaded by accident these sneaky programs called PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). They are malicious programs that can do a lot of damage and expose you to data leakage, displaying annoying ads or pop-ups on the screen, or adding toolbars on your browser.

They often come together with suspicious software you’ve ended up installing. You may have accidentally given your consent to install additional tools which you didn’t notice were there.

But while good Internet practices can protect you against PUPs, it’s advisable to rely on proactive security software.

Scenario #11: “Sometimes, I see unusual error messages displayed on my computer.”

An error message like this one could indicate that there’s a bug in your system which needs to be fixed. Or it could be a warning sign of malware infection.

These types of error messages showing missing or corrupt file folders suggest that your PC has been compromised and its performance is affected.

Source: Microsoft Windows Dev Center

How to fix this:

  • Make sure you have the latest updates installed on your operating system and regularly check for security patches, applications patches, and drivers.
  • Use a next-gen anti-malware solution, designed to keep you safe from any unwanted threats.

Scenario #12: “It seems that I can’t access my Control Panel by clicking on the button.”

If you are facing this issue and your Control Panel does not open, it means that your computer is having a technical problem and is not functioning correctly.

How to fix this?

  • The first thing to do is to run a full scan of your PC.
  • Then, see if you can open the Control Panel in Safe Mode and follow these steps described here. It could also be another sign that your computer is vulnerable and exposed to potential cyber attacks. After running a full scan with your antivirus product, use also a proactive security solution to keep your confidential information safe.

Scenario #13: “Everything seems to work perfectly on my PC. Are any chances to be paranoid and still check out for malware?”

When it comes to data protection, it is essential to be a little bit paranoid and very careful, even if everything seems to look normal. Why? Because cybercriminals are creative and they can hide malware in the most unexpected places, leaving no visible marks and still infecting your computer.

Everything may seem to work perfectly normal on your PC until a boot on your system could silently wait for instructions to access and collect your most valuable data.

The best way to make sure you don’t have any malware taking over your system by installing a security solution that scans your machine in real time and stops threats before they touch your PC.

Scenario #14: “My laptop is working very slowly and sometimes it gives the <Flash not working> error in the browser.”

We received the above message from one of our readers.

If you get this message too on your PC, it might be a good idea to disable Flash and try another alternative. Flash has lots of vulnerabilities that we talked about before.

Regardless of the browser you are using, Firefox this could be a warning sign that your computer is malware-infected.

Here are a few useful tips that will come in handy: 

  • Keep your Windows system up to date and consider reinstalling your OS if this issue persists.
  • Do a full scan of all your files and apps installed on your PC using an AV solution, to see if it detects any malware.
  • Consider installing a proactive security solution to enhance protection for your computer and keep malware and other online threats at bay.
  • Also, make sure you reboot your PC if you haven’t performed this task in a while.
  • Have a look at the Task Manager function and see what programs run in the background that could slow down your PC performance. It helps you get an overview of what apps and program take space and how much.
  • Make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed, but if you don’t have it, download it from here and follow the instructions. Remember to restart the computer after this procedure.
  • If you no longer want to have Flash Player on your computer, you can follow these easy steps and uninstall it.

Scenario #15: “I used an external USB drive and when I connected it to my computer, it was infected by a virus and suddenly all the files turned into shortcuts.”  

Here’s another warning sign showing your computer could be infected with malware. If you used an external USB drive or another external flash drive to copy information without scanning it before, this could explain the appearance of those shortcut files.

If all your images, files, and other documents show up as shortcut files and are not accessible, they could be infected with malware. These malicious files can compromise all your data from the computer, rename your files and create a lot of chaos and hassle.

How to fix this? 

If your files have been compromised, here are some useful tips and security measures to take:

  • Do a full scan of your USB drive and check out for possible viruses and malware. If the antivirus solution doesn’t detect them on your external drive, you should format it and clean the space.
  • Use the Command Prompt (cmd) on a Windows machine, while the USB drive is plugged into your device. To access it, go to the Start menu, type in “Cmd”, press “enter”, and you’ll see the “cmd.exe” under a list of programs. Click on it and you will be directed to the Windows command line from where you can recover the virus-infected. The process may take a while, but it will clean up your computer.
  • Make sure you add multiple layers of security and consider using a proactive security solution to strengthen your protection.

Can you avoid malware infections?

Yes, you definitely can, if you’re paying close attention to these early malware infection signs and prevent them from happening.

Make sure your operating system, browsers, and plugins are always up to date because keeping your software patched can keep online criminals at bay.

Also, here’s a list of recommended articles to help you better survive a malware infection:

How to Easily Remove Malware from Your PC [Updated]

How to Protect Your PC with Multiple Layers of Security

32 Go-To Security Forums for Free Malware Removal Help

Make sure your network is safe and secure, and always think before you click on something. Also, remember to practice safe browsing and always access trusted online sources to easier prevent potential online threats.

Reminder: Knowledge and long-lasting education are our best weapons to fight against online threats, so it’s vital to learn and educate yourself and others to better understand how malware works on your system, and how you can mitigate its impact.

This article was originally published by Andra Zaharia in April 2016, updated by Ioana Rijnetu in December 2018, and edited by Bianca Soare in June 2019.

The post 13+ Warning Signs that Your Computer is Malware-Infected [Updated 2019] appeared first on Heimdal Security Blog.

How To Set Your Facebook Settings To Keep Your Profile Secure And Private

Facebook is the primary social network platform right now and you need make sure your account is secured properly and your profile is not wide open to the public. This post is a refresher for you to go in and review your settings. On the left side you will see the menu items, the details […]

The post How To Set Your Facebook Settings To Keep Your Profile Secure And Private appeared first on Security In Five.