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In some cases, the malware writer wants to spread emails that contain a phishing site. Spam viruses have two parts. The first part infects your computer, and the second part grabs a list of contacts and emails them a link to the hacker’s phishing page. Because the email comes from a trusted source, your recipients are more likely to open the email and enter information. The hacker relies on the trust factor you have with your email contact list.
These viruses work in the background, so there aren’t many signs that your computer is infected. The biggest red flag is in your email. The virus chooses contact addresses randomly, so old contacts might not be valid anymore. When the virus attempts to contact old email addresses, you receive an error message in your inbox that says the message delivery failed. Usually, these error messages display the email message sent by the hacker. If you don’t recognize the message, you know that your computer is infected. These error messages are also useful when your email account is hacked. Hackers randomly target recipient emails that no longer function, so you receive bounce-backs that alert you to a hacker or malware running on your computer.
Ransom-ware is one of the newest forms of viruses and it’s also the nastiest. Ransom-ware is a software program that automatically searches your hard drive for specific file extensions such as .PPT, .DOC, or .XLS. Some ransomware software also searches for images on the hard drive such as JPG or PNG files. These files are usually important to the end user and that’s what the ransomware creator banks on. The malware encrypts these files and displays a message that you must pay a ransom to get the decryption key. The ransom doubles if you don’t pay within a certain amount of time. Because the files are encrypted with strong security, you can’t get them back without the key. Fortunately, the key is usually stored with the malware software, so some users are able to get back files without losing data.
Even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee that the malware writer will release your files. Some people pay the ransom hoping they get the key in return. Experts suggest that you shouldn’t pay the ransom, but some people pay the ransom anyway.
These files usually hide in executable files that are advertised as software updates. The objective is to get you to pay a ransom, so you know you have ransomware if you receive the blackmail message. Even if you don’t pay the ransom, it’s imperative that you clean the virus off of your computer. If you don’t clean it off your computer, the virus can encrypt more files at a later date.