The malware landscape is growing more complex by the minute, which means that no device under your family’s roof—be it Android, iPhone, PC, or Mac—is immune to an outside attack. This reality makes it possible that one or more of your devices may have already been infected. But would you know it?
Ho Ho Ho, Merry Hackmas
According to 2021 statistics from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), the number of data breaches reported has soared by 17 percent over last year. In addition, as reported by McAfee, cybercriminals have been quick to take advantage of the increase in pandemic connectivity throughout 2020. McAfee Labs saw an average of 375 new threats per minute and a surge of hackers exploiting the pandemic through COVID-19 themed phishing campaigns, malicious apps, malware, and more. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday now at hand, we can count on even more new threats.
Have you been hacked?
Often, if your device has been compromised, you know it. Things get wonky. However, with the types of malware and viruses now circulating, there’s a chance you may not even realize it. The malware or virus may be working in the background sending usage details or sensitive information to a third party without disrupting other functions. So, be on the lookout for these tell-tale signs.
5 signs of malware or a virus
- Your device is hot to the touch. When you accidentally download malware, your device’s internal components immediately begin working harder to support the malware or virus that’s been embedded. This may cause your device to be hot to the touch or even overheat.
- Everything ‘feels off.’ Much like a human virus can impact our whole body, a digital virus can impact every area of a device’s performance. For instance, it may cause websites to load slower, it may cause apps to crash, or your battery may not hold a charge. Overall performance remains sluggish no matter how many times you reboot or how many large files you delete.
- An increase in random pop-ups and new apps. If your device is housing a malicious app or a virus, you may notice an increase in random pop-ups (more than usual). And, if you take a closer look at your app library, you may even see app icons from apps you never downloaded.
- Fraudulent links from your accounts. It’s common for malware to gain access to your contacts list and then use your phone to send out messages to your friends—a powerful tactic designed to spread the malware to your contacts and their contacts and so on. This can happen via email, and more commonly, via your social media accounts. If you notice this cycle, change your passwords immediately and scan your devices for malware that may be working in the background on all devices.
- You have unauthorized charges. If you notice unauthorized charges on your credit card or banking statements, dig deeper. It may be a malicious app making purchases on your behalf or malware that’s grabbed your personal information to make fraudulent purchases.
Ways to safeguard family devices
- Stay on top of updates. In addition to installing comprehensive security software to block malware and viruses, be sure to update your device’s security features. Regular updates give you the latest security features, some of which have been developed to thwart specific attacks.
- Use strong, unique passwords. Every family device should have a strong password along with a unique username. This means changing your factory settings immediately and getting your family on a schedule to change passwords.
- Know your apps. Only download apps from trusted sources. Avoid third-party apps. Also, consider researching the app safeguards and reading reviews before installing. A best practice is to stick to apps from the app store or verified associated app stores.
- Don’t click that link. Slow down and notice your digital surroundings. Does that link look suspicious? Phishing scams that load malware and viruses onto your devices often come in emails, text messages, or via your trusted social media circles.
- Lockdown settings and limit app permissions. A great way to block malware is to make all accounts as private as possible and limit app permissions. Instead of opting for “always-on” in an app’s permissions, change the setting, so it requires you to give the app permission every time. In addition, if an app requests access to your contacts or connect to other apps in your digital ecosystem, decline. Each time you allow an app to connect to different branches of your digital footprint, you hand over personal data and open yourself up to various new risks.
- Clear browsing history. Take the time to go through your history and data. If you notice a suspicious link, delete it. Clear your browsing history by choosing your browser and clicking “clear history and website data.”
If you discover a family device has been compromised, there are several things you can do. 1) Install security software that will help you identify the malware so you can clean your device and protect yourself in the future. 2) Delete any apps you didn’t download, delete risky texts, delete browsing history and empty your cache. 3) In some situations, malware warrants that you wipe and restore your device (Apple or Android) to its original settings. Before doing so, however, do your research and be sure you’ve backed up any photos and critical documents to the cloud. 4) Once you’ve cleaned up your devices, be sure to change your passwords.
The surge in malware attacks brings with it a clear family mandate that if we want to continue to live and enjoy the fantastic benefits of a connected life, we must also work together at home to make online safety and privacy a daily priority.