In addition to dumping more than three feet of snow in some areas of the Northeast, Winter Storm Stella may also be to blame for a spike in malware infections. Computer users who were snowed in went online and ended up with more infections than usual. That's according to data released today by Enigma Software Group (ESG), makers of the SpyHunter anti-spyware program. ESG looked at malware detection data from SpyHunter focusing in the northeast area and compared them to data in the days leading up to the storm. They found infections spiked anywhere from 15 to more than 90 percent in some areas hit hard by the storm.
"Any time we see a large number of people change their online habits, we see a change in infections," said ESG spokesperson Ryan Gerding. "On Tuesday you had millions of people who stayed home from school and work. When they were snowed in, they went online, and when they went online, they got infections."
Northeastern Areas of the USA Where Malware Detection Spiked
Here are a few of the areas where ESG's experts found a spike on Tuesday compared to the average number of infections in the days leading up to the storm.
- New York City saw an 83.43% jump on Tuesday
- Boston saw a 37.65% jump
- Philadelphia's infections spiked 14.95%
- New Jersey saw an 88.25% spike
- All of Pennsylvania saw a 79.18% spike
- Infections in Massachusetts jumped 27.06%
- Connecticut's infections jumped 91.47% on Tuesday
How are these infections getting on computers? Sometimes the infections come bundled with other software that people download from the Internet. Sometimes the infections come from adult websites that ask you to download a special viewer to allow you to see the content. And many times they come from links sent in emails and social media messages by criminals looking to trick you.
4 Key Steps to Help Protect Computers from Malware Infections
- Make sure to regularly backup all of your important files in two places: a physical location like an external hard drive, and in an online location in the cloud.
- Have a trusted anti-malware program installed on your computer.
- Ensure that your security software and your operating system are set to download and install important updates automatically.
- "Think about that link". Before clicking on a link you see in an email or social media message, be wary, be alert, and think about whether it could be a trick to get you to accidentally download an infection.