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National Cyber Security Awareness Month: Malware

Throughout October, Queen’s University is recognizing National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

At Queen’s, the goal of NCSAM is to increase awareness about cybersecurity while educating the campus community on ways to better protect your devices, networks, data, and personal information from cyber threats.

In support of the effort, the Gazette is publishing a series of informational articles focused on online threats and tips on how to maintain and improve cyber security at the university.

MALWARE

Are you at risk?"Malware Poster"

Malware, also known as "malicious software", consists of any program or file that is harmful to a user's device and/or data. It can also sit on your computer to be used be the hacker "in control" of the software. These files and programs can perform many functions, but are typically used to: 

  • Steal personal data; 
  • Alter core device functions; or 
  • Monitor your actions without your permission 
  • Malware can also lie dormant on a device until it is "triggered" by the desired action. 

How does this affect me?

Malware attacks are becoming increasingly difficult to identify. You can fall victim to malware by simply opening an email or visiting a website. A program can install from an email or website without warning or any action on your part. Just visiting a web page or opening a file is enough to cause the download to begin in the background, so you may not even be aware that you have malware on your system! 

If your system is infected with malware, your personal data, as well as that of all others on your network, is at risk. This includes banking information, passwords, files, and any other information that is stored on your device. 

How can I prevent malware? 

Backup your data! 

  • Creating regular backups of your data protects you from data loss and ensures that you retain important information even if your computer becomes infected. 
  • Be sure to create a backup on a drive that is not physically housed on your device’s hard drive, such as on an external drive or in a place like Microsoft OneDrive. 
  • Check to make sure you are using a Queen's secured method for backing up and sharing files.

Install an antivirus software on your devices.  

  • A reputable antivirus program helps to protect your device from incoming threats and identify current malware you might have on your system. Scanning regularly ensures your system is consistently protected. 
  • Handheld devices need anti-virus, too. 

Keep your operating system and all software current. 

  • Operating systems such as Windows and iOS are always providing updates and patches to fix potential security issues within the system. Ensuring that you install regularly scheduled updates helps protect your devices from known threats. 
  • Don't forget to update your internet browsers as well! Patches are often released to update vulnerabilities within the browser. 
  • Don't save passwords in your browser.  

Beware of "free” or “stray” devices. 

  • It is possible to stumble across loose USB keys or other external devices, whether left plugged into Queen's computers or on desks, library carols, the ground, etc.  
  • If you find a stray device, don't use it! There are no accidents where malware is concerned, and you never know what an unsolicited device might contain. 

Learn how to respond if you catch a virus. 

  • Don't click on links or visit websites if you're unsure where they lead. 
  • If you aren't sure the source of a link or where it came from, don't click it!  
  • Beware of pop-ups offering to update your system software. This is usually an attempt to infect your computer. 

How do I know if I'm infected? 

The easiest way to know if you're infected is to run a scan on your antivirus. The program should be able to identify any malicious software installed on your device, but there are instances where malware can go undetected by an antivirus program. 

In these instances, you may be infected if you notice: 

  • Your system is running slower than usual 
  • You suddenly experience a large volume of pop-ups 
  • Your device crashes 
  • You run out of hard drive space 
  • You have a new browser homepage, new toolbars, or new websites accessed without your consent or direction 
  • You notice new programs that start automatically on your device 
  • Your antivirus is suddenly disabled 
  • Your friends tell you that they are receiving strange emails or messages from you that you did not send 
  • The battery life of your device drains faster than normal 
  • You are unable to access the control panel or task manager 

What do I do if I've been infected? 

If you suspect you have malware on your device, stop using it for any personal activities! Then: 

  • Bring your device to the IT Support Centre for diagnostics and scans to ensure the threat has been properly removed 
  • Scan your other devices to ensure they have not been compromised 
  • Using another device, change your passwords to ensure any unauthorized access to your personal accounts and data has been cut off

For more infomration, visit the IT Services website.