Understanding and Avoiding Computer Worm Risks

September 8, 2021

For all modern computer users who access the internet regularly in any way, cybersecurity is a vital area that cannot be overlooked. There are a variety of threats out there that are constantly morphing to find new ways to attack your devices and steal your information, and one particular type you need to be prepared for is the computer worm.

At Xidax, we ensure all our clients are outfitted with comprehensive cybersecurity packages when they purchase any of our gaming laptops, desktops, workstations or other computing setups. We’re also happy to provide our technical expertise in any threat prevention area you require it, including those who have had issues with computer worms in the past and want to prevent these concerns moving forward. What are computer worms, how do they compare to viruses and other threats, and what are some common signs you might be dealing with a worm? Here’s a basic layout.

Computer Worm Basics

Computer worms refer to a form of malware that enters a system and spreads without the user’s knowledge, either through network access or via infected or removable media. From there, worms can spread quickly to other devices on the same network, since worms aren’t programmed to recognize if it is entering another device that already has infections, unlike viruses.

Once they spread around, worms can both change and destroy data, cause system crashes, or spread to other systems and devices. Worms can also be used to create botnets, which are a group of networked private computers that have been compromised by malware and can be remotely controlled without the user’s knowledge. The owner of the botnet isn’t necessarily responsible for all the traffic sent through it, but the owner doesn’t need a command to control its movements.

Some worms will also attempt to conduct distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which an attacker can use multiple computers or other internet-connected devices to flood a targeted server with traffic until it can no longer function. This heavy load of traffic essentially makes it impossible for anyone else to use the site or server, and can shut it down completely.

Differences Between Computer Worms and Computer Viruses

While worms and viruses are not the same thing, they have the same goal: To damage a computer system in some way. However, they go about it in very different ways.

Viruses, you see, are meant to corrupt or delete data in one or more devices connected to a network, usually in order to render the machines useless. While they can spread like worms, viruses are not meant to actively seek out other hosts and infect them – that task is left up to their host, which could be you if you’re not careful.

Worms, however, are created specifically to reproduce and spread among devices. Once they have entered a system, worms can engage in the same activities as viruses.

What this means is that viruses are often attached to email messages or other files, waiting for you to open them. Worms don’t need you to take any such action – all they need is access and they’ll start working their magic. They will duplicate without any human intervention whatsoever, making them especially dangerous.

Possible Signs of Computer Worms

Here are the possible signs of a computer worm you should be on the lookout for, especially if you’ve had such issues in the past:

  • A sudden freeze or crash of the system, leading to data loss
  • Major slowdown in computer functions
  • Network connectivity issues
  • Receiving unusual spam and junk mail messages — or being told your computer is sending random emails to others without your knowledge
  • Potential identification of malware or a virus on your system
  • Firewall sending out strange, unnecessary warnings
  • Files either missing or altered regularly
  • Desktop icons or other files you have never seen before are being displayed suddenly
  • Error warnings displayed by the operating system

It’s possible some of these symptoms are due to other issues, so they don’t necessarily signal a worm in every case. If you’re dealing with several of these symptoms at the same time, however, it’s time to get suspicious.

Worm Prevention and Removal Tips

Because worms are so diverse and widespread, there is no one solution that will work for all of them. In general, here are some things you can do to protect your computer from infection:

  • Ensure that malware protection and antivirus software is up-to-date and active at all times, as it will stop most computer worms before they ever enter your system.
  • Keep a close eye out for phishing emails or messages that may contain links to malicious sites.
  • Frequently back up important files on an external device, such as a USB drive or disc. This will ensure you won’t lose any data if your system is infected.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments, and never download files from websites you don’t trust.
  • Install web browser plug-ins that will alert you if you’re about to visit a malicious site.
  • Use strong passwords for all of your accounts. This may not always prevent an attack, but it will make things more difficult for the attacker.
  • Make sure software in your system is up-to-date. Never allow automatic updates to be disabled, either.

With these precautions in mind, you should find it a little easier to fight off computer worms before they can do any damage to your system or data.

For more on computer worms and how to ensure they don’t cause problems for you, speak to the staff at Xidax today.

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