Security Update – 2019

Article (PSA-0011)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Owner
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Security Update
Original release date: February 16, 2019

Security Update

“From the sudden spread of WannCry and Petya/NotPetya ransomware, to the swift growth in coinminers, 2017 provided us with another reminder that digital security threats can come from new and unexpected sources. With each passing year, not only has the sheer volume of threats increased, but the threat landscape has become more diverse, with attackers working harder to discover new avenues of attack and cover their tracks while doing so.” – Excerpt from Symantec 2018 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), volume 23, clarifications by Billy Long.

The Internet can be a dangerous and costly place. Network and computer security threats are a very real concern for businesses and home users alike. Symantec, the world’s leading cyber security company, reported an astounding 8,500% (yes, that’s correct eight thousand five hundred) increase in detections of coinminers on endpoint computers, a 92% increase in new downloader variants and an 80% increase in new malware on Macs.

Data and identity theft are a profitable sector, but that is not the only thing at risk in today’s Internet connected world. Your network connected device has processing power and that processing power has become a commodity to many “bad actors” who are diligently punching in to work each day.

These “attack teams” or “attack groups” are constantly developing methods for infecting devices and computers with malware for their own nefarious purposes. Malware can spread through, what appear to be, legitimate files, links or websites. What’s even worse is “attack toolkits,” can be downloaded for free or purchased from the Internet making cybercrime accessible and inexpensive to commit and allowing these crimes to be perpetrated by relatively unsophisticated attackers.

It’s important for all Internet users to have a basic understanding of these threats and to learn how to protect themselves. This article is the first in a series of articles which will provide an overview of malware threats, suggestions for infection prevention and steps to take if you suspect your computer is infected.

What Is Malware?

The word “malware” is a portmanteau, blended from the words “malicious” and “software.” It is most often used as a catchall term for computer related threats such as viruses, spyware, adware, and other software installed without a user’s consent or knowledge.

Malware can get into your system in a variety of ways. Here is short, non-exhaustive list:

  • Infected email attachments
  • Infected removable storage devices such as portable “thumb-drives”
  • Downloaded software
  • Links in email, social media websites, or instant messages

For more information on methods of attack and attack terminology, check out the “Threat Glossary” being compiled at the PSA Computer Services support website:

Do You Need to Worry About Malware?

So, you may be thinking this all sounds scary, but does it really affect me at home or at my small business? Yes! It is not just large companies or government organizations that need to protect themselves. Anybody can be a victim of cyber-crime if not properly protected.

If you are a business, your customers trust you with their information. If you’re a home-based user, you may have family pictures, important documents or business data stored on your computer. If you’re not taking appropriate steps to secure your network and data, your computer and information are not safe. Preliminary statistics indicate 1 in 3 people were hacked in 2018. Information security breaches can have major financial and legal consequences.

In the next article we will look at what network and computer protection is available to you and how to exercise common sense Internet usage to help reduce the probability of you or your business being compromised.