The essential job of internet security is to provide adequate network protection and prevent malware attacks and other security breaches. Yet IT security is a challenge and even businesses that have great security measures in place could find themselves dealing with an attack on their network. Since new threats appear every day, no network protection is guaranteed to be foolproof. Besides the usual monitoring and alerts, IT managers should look for the following warning signs that malware could be affecting the network:
- Sudden Network Slowdown - Slowed booting and system function is a vague symptom that can be caused by many things. Quite often one of these things is malware. Even though there are many possibilities when a network starts to get sluggish, always run a scan for malware and make sure that IT security systems are functioning properly. The problem may simply be a lack of RAM, an overheating server, or something else; however, it could just as easily be a malware issue.
- Frequent Network Crashes and Disappearing Hard Drive Space - Frequent system crashes could indicate some kind of incompatibility between software; however, it is also a warning sign that malware could be present. Crashes combined with a sudden lack of hard drive space indicate a probable malware infection. Some malware affects the way various programs work, while other malicious programs fill up hard drives, causing computers and networks to crash.
- Increased Hard Drive and Network Activity - Another classic symptom that suggests the presence of malware and a need for greater network protection is higher than usual hard drive and network activity. When the drives and networks are active even when they are not in use, malware could be the problem. First check to make sure there are no automated functions or updates going on that could account for this activity. If there are no scheduled downloads, updates, or other maintenance issues, suspect malware and run a scan.
- Pop-Ups and Suspicious Emails - On a network with good internet security, there is no reason to ever see pop-ups, experience spam emails, or see emails sent from hijacked user accounts. Both of these issues indicate that a computer or the network has spam or spyware on it. Unfortunately, these programs frequently bring more harmful malicious programs with them.
- Unusual Warnings, Messages and Programs - System warnings are important when they are legitimate. Unfortunately, when IT security has been compromised, users may begin to notice strange warnings and messages that suggest running software that was never present before or even purchasing some kind of removal tool. Should this start to happen, networks should be immediately scanned to remove malware.
- Changed Browser Defaults - When someone logs into their computer or company network and things look different than they were, this is a prime indicator that some kind of unwelcome software is present. Spamware and similar programs will frequently change default browsers and other default settings, add unwanted toolbars, introduce pop-ups, access unwanted websites, and can even turn off certain types of internet security programs, inviting more threatening programs to enter. If these types of unauthorized changes are discovered, immediately run a malware scan.
It is easy to assume there is no risk from malware when a company has a good internet security program in place; however, creators of malicious software find new loopholes to exploit businesses every day. The best network protection means having a great IT security product in place and also good observation. When any of these concerns are discovered, IT services should initially be suspicious of a malware infection, then do whatever is necessary to locate and remove it!