With Halloween on the horizon, it’s easy to think of all the tasty treats that come along with the Fall season. Everyone loves candy (even if we know we shouldn’t), and it’s hard not to find yourself biting into the creamy center of a Milky Way or splurging on a handful of Crunch bars.

While you may not be Trick or Treating this October, the temptation to buy and enjoy candy is hard to put out of mind. Constant sales, flashy ads, and sugar-coated deals run rampant as the 31st draws near. Unfortunately, your local supermarket isn’t the only one who has upped the ante when it comes to advertising.

You may have noticed an increase of ads while you’ve been browsing the web, lately. Invasive pop-ups, loud videos claiming the next best business solution, and even tech support that’s cheap or free! Just like our Halloween candy jar, it’s tempting to sample just one! On the World Wide Web though, that treat becomes a trick all too often. With spyware, adware and hidden scams on the rise, even one taste can leave your computer under the magic spell of unwanted software.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of downloading a piece of free software to perform a function you need. For example, maybe it was software to open PDFs online or a toolbar that promised to keep you up to date on the news, improve the accuracy of all your online searches and even speed up your internet browser in one fell swoop. For anyone who’s tried one of these miracle add-ons, however, we know that the result is just the opposite.

Free software tends to cost a premium, crippling efficiency and potentially compromising data. From leveraging your system processes and built-in operating system functions such as PowerShell, malware can be manipulating your machine and data long before it’s discovered. What that malware does will vary: from spying on your browsing habits, to bombarding you with more bogus ads or fraudulent links, to stealing credentials and prompting you to give up confidential information such as banking passwords or Office 365 logins.

If you’ve been tricked by spyware, don’t panic…

However, it may be time to run an anti-malware scan and clean your browser’s cookies. It’s also a good idea to change your passwords every few months for important sites like your bank or business email. While this may clear out some cached settings and log you out of your open sites, it’s well worth the effort. But, if you’re still worried a virus or “computer gremlin” may have slipped through the cracks, give us a call.

With all this in mind, be careful this Halloween season not to find yourself tricked for a treat. Arm your users with the proper Cyber Security and Awareness Training they need, to spot cyber tricks and scams from a mile away.

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First published in our October 2018 IT Radix Resource newsletter