How to protect yourself from malicious software

The National Crime Agency is warning against a super virus, due to hit the UK in a fortnight. Credit: Reuters

The National Crime Agency is advising people to ensure their security software is installed and updated, as the UK has been hit by a powerful malware designed to infect computers and mine them for valuable information.

Read: Two weeks to save UK computers from hackers

15,000 computers in the UK and around 1 million globally have already been infected. The FBI says attacked computers can display any of these symptoms:

  • Computer system operates very slowly

  • Cursor moves erratically with no input

  • Unauthorised logins to bank accounts or unauthorised money transfers

  • Text-based chat windows appear on a computer’s desktop unexpectedly

  • Computer files lock up and a ransom demand is made to unlock files

The NCA and the Home Office is urging people to take the time to protect themselves, as much as they can, by doing the following:

1. Install updates

  • This is a minimum precaution. Install updates to your operating systems and web browser on your computer and mobile devices.

2. Install antivirus software

  • Install specific antivirus software to your computer.

3. Do not open an attachment unless you are certain of its orgins

  • The aggressive virus is contained inside an attachment, and can be activated through a click

  • Once downloaded, the file scans the computer looking for data on how to access your accounts, the NCA said

  • If it does not find this information, it freezes the computer, and flashes a payment demand on screen

4. Back up your files

  • Make sure all of your files, including documents, photos, music and bookmarks are all backed up and readily available in case you are no longer able to access them for your computer.

5. Strengthen your passwords

  • Passwords should be nonsensical, contain a mix of numbers, symbols, and lower and uppercase letters.

  • Do not make your passwords similar to your usernames

  • Never store passwords on your computer in case they can be accessed by your the malware

6. Shop online safely

  • Keep any stored card details safe by having a secure password

  • If you have a PayPal account, make sure you have updated your password

  • If paying on a mobile phone, consider installing a mobile anti-virus

7. Monitor (and update) social media privacy settings

  • Make sure you know exactly what you are sharing and who you are sharing it with

For more information, go to Cyber Streetwise.

For more information on the malware, go to the Home Office page on getting safe online.