Can you identify malware? Learn the signs
23rd February 2021
When we talk about malware, we think of a computer virus. But a virus is only the beginning. Cisco, which specialises in advanced technologies, defines malware as a “malicious software designed to damage and destroy computers and computer systems.”
Broadly speaking, malware is one of the biggest threats on the internet. The AV-TEST Institute registers 350,000 new malicious programs (malware) and potentially unwanted applications (PUA) every single day, making schools especially vulnerable. According to the Washington Post, there has been a spike in ransomware attacks against schools in the past few months, making learning environments even more stressful during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s critical that teachers and students alike know how to identify malware before their devices, or the school network, are put at risk.
Types of malware
All of the following malware attacks require you to open, click or download a program, email or even an advertisement that carry a virus in order to be activated.
Trojan Horses carry a malicious program that infiltrates your computer. They usually look like legitimate files or documents. Spyware is software that is used to spy on online activity and collect your personal data like passwords, usernames, or payment information.
Ransomware is a type of cyberattack that aims to collect important data from your device or restrict access to your files and information. Then it demands a payment from you in order to return access.
Phishing is a common cyberattack which usually takes the form of an email or text message that asks you to click on a link, download a file or log in to a fake platform. Bots are computers that are being remotely controlled by a hacker. Worms spread through a network and replicate and compromise your computer.
How to identify malware in the remote classroom
How can teachers and students identify an attempted malware attack when it reaches their inboxes? Here are a few things to look out for.
- Messages sent from a public email domain. If the email claims to be sent from a legitimate organisation, the email address will almost never end with ‘@gmail.com’ or ‘@yahoo.com’. Pay attention to the sender of the email more than the topic of it. See the example below.
- Wrong or misspelt domain name. Some scammers will change a single letter in the domain name to fool recipients. For example, the email could come from ‘@impirosoftware.com’ rather than ‘@imperosoftware.com.’
- Opening links or clicking on advertisements on suspicious or inappropriate websites. Now that students are on their devices during the majority of their day, they are seen as easy targets for malware attacks. Teaching them how to recognise a threat and showing them how important it is not to access such websites is key. Our web content filter, Impero web:check, can help keep students protected from inappropriate or malicious content online. It scans content in real-time, identifying 150 million new URLs and 150,000 adult webpages per day to help schools battle malware regardless of where students are learning.
- Suspicious attachments or links included in messages. These attachments may come as an invoice letter, a payment confirmation document or anything else that you might receive on a usual basis. These attachments might look legitimate but if you do open the file, malware could immediately attack your device and do damage. The best way for you to protect yourself is to never open anything you were not expecting or if you are unsure is a legitimate document. We advise teachers to warn students not to open any attachments if they haven’t been notified that they will be sent or directly contact the organisation it was sent from to check if the email is legitimate.
- Unvalidated links. If you receive a link for a forgotten password, account activation or any other request, the first thing to do is hover with your mouse over that link or button. The link destination will appear in a small bar at the bottom of the browser or below your mouse.
- Any emails or messages that sound urgent and require you to fill in unnecessary information or give any personal details. In such cases, always check the credibility of the sender and reassure yourself it is a legitimate request and not a scam. See the example below.
Determine if your computer has already been compromised
Sometimes, even the best of us haven’t identified a malware attack before it’s too late. If you’re not sure if yours or a student’s computer has already been compromised, here are a few things to look out for:
- Your computer suddenly slows down or crashes often
- You see sent messages from your devices that weren’t written by you
- Increased pop-ups
- Your device’s storage space is at full capacity
- Programs opening and closing automatically
Impero can help you and your students stay protected online and limit your school’s exposure to malware. Learn more about Impero web:check or book a demo below.