Smart devices, social media and increased online activity through app stores and other transaction-based Web sites are coming together in a perfect storm of hazards for the unwary. Malware has exploded to new levels, and the tactics criminals use to exploit machines is becoming ever more targeted, with social networks and smartphones to aid them in their background research on victims.
“Malware forms aren’t changing much, but the means of delivering it, and its intent, is becoming more stealthy and sinister,” says Bruce Goodwill, sales director – EMEA, LATAM and Australia at AVG.
“The malware itself has little need to change because the underlying platforms are still the same, but the cyber-criminals that are responsible for these infections are going to be using new vulnerabilities to blast their way in and do the damage they’re designing it to do.”
Along with viruses, one of the biggest threats to computer users today is malware. It can hijack browsers, redirect search attempts, serve up nasty pop-up ads, track which Web sites users visit, and generally mess things up.
Malware programs are usually poorly-programmed and can cause a computer to become unbearably slow and unstable. Many of them will reinstall themselves even after users think they have removed them, or hide themselves deep within an operating system, making them very difficult to clean.
A good security software suite is therefore essential. Goodwill explains that security software like AVG Internet Security provides insurance against the many threats out there.
“Premium products like AVG Internet Security warn you about potential threats and use automatic monitoring to ensure even unknown malware threats are blocked. In addition, a feature like AVG’s Do Not Track, provides even more control by helping users identify and block ad networks, social buttons, and Web analytics that potentially track your browsing activities.”
Viruses and malware, however, are only the tip of the threat iceberg. Cyber-criminals are well organised and opportunistic, and they are mostly looking to target specific organisations or individuals. To achieve this, they require a lot of information about them, and social networks are providing most of this.
“If these criminals are targeting someone specific, they can’t just throw a virus in an e-mail and hope it works. They actually have to craft a special e-mail that looks like it came from a person two floors down, attaching a document that could be expected from them that someone might reasonably open.”
AVG’s products therefore do their best to protect users from this type of social engineering, providing monitoring of all online activity and checking each page and link on social networks to make sure they are safe. “Like in the real world, the online world is full of threats for the unwary. In addition to the usual dangers provided by viruses and malware, the risks to computer users are increasing as personal information is more available thanks to smartphones and social networking sites like Facebook.
“Everyone who has a connected device should be security conscious, starting by installing a good security software product,” Goodwill concludes.