Malicious software (malware) is any program or code that attacks an electronic device, from computers to cellphones or tablets, with the aim of damaging the system and causing it to malfunction or to steal the information stored on it. It can be hidden in:
Attachments in fraudulent emails.
SMS links asking you to download applications or files.
Unofficial applications that have been infected with this software.
Malicious advertising hidden on illegitimate websites.
Software updates that a website may require to view certain content.
In the event that an electronic device is infected with malware, certain anomalies may be detected, such as:
The device does not run as smoothly as usual.
The system crashes frequently.
Less free space on a hard drive.
Programs the user is unfamiliar with are installed.
Extensions and tools appear in the browser that have not been downloaded by the user.
The browser’s home page changes.
Unknown error messages are received frequently.
Antivirus software stops working correctly.
When removing a Trojan from a computer, the first thing to know is its modus operandi. The most important are:
Information theft: there are many types of malware that seek to obtain a user’s personal information (passwords, bank accounts, means of payment) in order to sell it or use it later to commit fraud or extortion. These include:
Trojans: To the user these appear to be useful programs, so they usually download and install them without concern. Once on the system, it offers the hacker unauthorized remote access to the infected device.
Spyware: Software that installs on the user’s computer when they download an infected attachment or install a program containing this software in disguise. It collects private information from users and sends it to third parties.
Keylogger: An application that records the user’s keystrokes on their computer, without their permission or knowledge, then sends the information to third parties.
Ransomware: A type of malware that blocks access to information stored on the user’s computer by encrypting it. Afterward, criminals demand a sum of money as payment so that the user can recover their information. The fear of losing their information makes victims pay this ransom, with varying results, which is why it is always inadvisable to give in to this type of extortion.
Advertising purposes: Adware is less dangerous, but very annoying. This software displays unwanted advertisements on the user’s screen, usually through their browser or email account. It also does so via pop-up windows.
How can you protect your device from malware?
The most important security habits you should practice to avoid downloading and running malicious software on your devices are:
Always keep device software and applications up to date.
Only download applications from official sources: Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
Use tools to detect infected websites, such as Google Safe Browsing.
Install antivirus and antimalware programs and keep them up to date and running.
Do not download files from insecure websites or suspicious emails (remember that legitimate websites start with “https”).
Do not provide your private information or download programs to websites you have accessed through a link in an email. Before you do anything, you should always make sure that it is a legitimate email.