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Beware of the danger of malware

Ways to stay safe when using a computer or mobile device.

From baby pictures to vital documents, we store everything on our computers and mobile devices. What would you do if you suddenly lost access? Although technology has made our lives convenient, it has also allowed a new form of crime to take root: cyber threats.

What are cyber threats?

Cyber threats are attempts to infiltrate a computer or mobile device. These threats may originate from a variety of sources and anyone can be a potential target. Cyber criminals may accomplish this goal by using malware to track your internet activities, capture your sensitive information, or block access to your computer until you pay a ransom.

Spotlight on malware

Malware is a broad term that includes computer viruses, spyware, and other types of programs that can inflict damage on hardware and compromise sensitive information. Using malware, cyber criminals swiftly gain access to your computer to locate your information and leave before you detect any unusual activity. For example, a cyber criminal could monitor and record your keystrokes, collecting information such as username and password for financial websites.

Malware can be spread by visiting contaminated websites, clicking on malicious links in emails or websites, downloading infected files such as mp3s, documents, email attachments, or videos, or inserting infected USB storage devices into your computer or device.

One type of malware, called ransomware, is becoming increasingly popular with cyber criminals due to its lucrative nature and the difficulty with tracking the perpetrators. In a ransomware attack, cyber criminals essentially hold your computer hostage, blocking access to your operating system by locking your screen or encrypting important files until you pay a sum of money. This type of attack primarily occurs on computers. From January 2015 to December 2015, ransomware incidents doubled from three million to six million.

Signs your computer or mobile device may be infected by malware:

  • Runs slower than normal
  • Stops responding or locks up often
  • Crashes and restarts on its own
  • Does not operate correctly when restarted
  • Your computer or mobile device displays:
    • Emails you do not recognize in your sent folder
    • Unusual error messages, distorted menus, strange dialogue boxes, or unwanted pop-up ads
    • Threatening messages claiming to be from law enforcement or an anonymous blackmailer and may demand payment, indicating ransomware

How to protect yourself from malware

  • Do keep security patches and anti-virus software up to date for your computer and mobile devices.
  • Do back up your data on a daily basis. Sync your files to a secure external drive or cloud-based software.
  • Don’t auto download any attachments – be sure to turn off this setting on your mobile device.
  • Don’t click on links, open attachments, or provide sensitive information through a suspicious email or text message.

If you think your account information may have been compromised or you suspect fraud, contact Wells Fargo immediately. For more information about cyber threats, visit the Cyber Threats page in the Fraud Information Center.

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