As you probably know, many free download sites attach additional “drive-by” downloads to the files you download from their sites to your PC.
A relative handful of those “add-on” programs are actually beneficial, but the vast majority of them are simply junk that will bloat your system and slow it down.
Even worse, some add-ons that claim to provide a useful service are actually malware that will spy on you and/or do nefarious things and make it look like you’re the culprit.
One of the most insidious “drive-by” add-ons that you’re likely to ever encounter is a program called S5Mark.
S5Mark claims to be a VPN app that will allow you to surf the Internet anonymously and help protect your privacy, but in reality all it does is infect your system with a nasty variant of the Zacinlo rootkit virus.
This virus is particularly bad because in addition to displaying pop-up ads on your screen it also takes screenshots of whatever is displayed on your computer screen and sends them back to a hacker.
In a nutshell, anything that’s displayed on your screen is subject to being stolen. That includes personal photos, credit card and banking info that might currently be in a form you’re filling out and literally anything else that you can view on your PC’s screen.
S5Mark can infect any Windows machine but the vast majority of infections have been discovered in systems running Windows 10.
Symptoms of this insidious virus include the aforementioned pop-up ads, but unfortunately those ads aren’t displayed on every infected system.
Just to be safe, I recommend that you do the following two things to protect your system from an S5Mark infection:
1 – Follow the steps in this post to track down and remove any viruses and other forms of malware that might already be on your system (including S5Mark).
2 – Be extremely careful to avoid downloading additional “add-on” software when you download a file from one of the free software download sites. This usually requires either unchecking a pre-checked “opt-in” box on the download page or while running the downloaded program’s installer.
Bottom line: S5Mark bills itself as a free VPN app but its real purpose is to steal your personal and financial information! Make sure you keep it off your PC!
Bonus tip #1: Many free software programs are actually quite useful and well worth the time it takes to (safely) download them and install them on your PC.
This post discusses seven fantastic free tools that I use on a regular basis!
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