In today’s media and society as a whole, scare tactics run rampant, often causing preemptive reactions and paranoia. The culture of fear that results can be scarier than the actual threats propagating them but, in the case of computers, there are very real threats to come to terms with. The face is often obscure and it goes by many names so I’m here to give you a little PC Security & Contingency Planning 101 course.
First, let’s get a few things straight: any device that has access to software is at risk. If such device has Internet access, there’s even greater risk. You run a risk if you partake in certain activities as well. What risk? The risk of compromising your computer’s security.
Security compromises in the computer world manifest themselves in many ways. There is a wide array of methods for attackers to infiltrate your computers by way of intrusive software programs/applications. Here are a few symptoms that may hint to possible computer adulteration:
- Random performance spikes that cause system unresponsiveness or sporadic slowdown.
- Dynamic web content that seems to know a little TOO much about you.
- Sudden inaccessibility of known-working web sites.
- Overall sluggish system performance, regardless of what you are doing on your computer.
- Weird e-mail messages from names that sound foreign or just look like gibberish.
- Unexpected pop-ups, desktop icons, and extra stuff appearing.
- Your computer does not boot up properly or at all.
- Specific programs become unavailable or crash, often including security and diagnostics software.
- Memory randomly leaks during long computing sessions, no matter how little you multitask.
- Familiar screens suddenly look a bit “off” but you can’t quite pin-point why…
Certainly, there are many other tell-tale signs of foul play but these are amongst some of the most common things I’ve seen first-hand. The key thing here is to note that malicious software works differently depending what you have. You can have multiple infections at once or you may just be due for a computer overhaul and/or reformat. Be wary: some issues are due to lack of ongoing housekeeping and others are caused by unwanted programs. It’s hard to tell which is which, but that’s why you have tech-savvy friends and tech consultants (hopefully).