What is Malware?
Malware is a term that comes from combining the two words malicious and software. The broad term malware can refer to any software intended to harm or disrupt a system. It can gain unauthorized access to your device and wreak havoc on your computer. Malware is not just limited to devices but can also affect servers and computer networks. Unfortunately, a wide variety of malware exists in the world today, but you and your business can take proactive measures to prevent any damage.
Typically, your employees or team will need to take some form of action for malware to infect their device. These actions are by no means complex, as even clicking on a seemingly harmless link in an email can lead to malware break-in — gaining access to your system and eventually become an uncontrollable issue. Once the malware has gained access, the virus can replicate without the user knowing and cause more harm, spreading from one system to another.
Types of Malware
As mentioned, there are several different types of malware. Since malware is a broad term used to describe any kind of malicious software, there are many other terms you may have heard of that can be categorized as malware. From viruses to adware, it is important to recognize the different types of malware that could be targeting your devices or network.
- Virus: a computer program that can replicate itself and modify other programs on a device.
- Worm: commonly used against servers, does not require a host program to run or self-replicate.
- Trojan: malware disguised as legitimate software, can allow threat actors to steal your data and spy on you once activated.
- Bot/Botnet: a group of bots, which are a type of computer system attached to a compromised network.
- Ransomware: designed to lock users out of their system or deny access to data.
- Spyware: designed to gain access then damage your device.
- Adware: designed to serve ads on web browsers.
- Spam: unsolicited communications sent over the internet or through a messaging system.
- Rootkits: back door program that allows a controller to spy on the device and change system configurations.
- Logic Bombs: malware that will only activate when triggered.
- Keyloggers: used to steal passwords or sensitive data by logging a user’s keystrokes.
How to Tell if Your Computer Has Malware
There are many different signs to be aware of in the event that your computer has malware. Some are more obvious than others, but the best thing is to take proactive steps against malware before any issues occur. Common malware signs include unexpected messages, programs starting automatically, personal files disappearing, or your firewall being disabled. You may also notice your computer is running slower, emails are sent without user action, or your device is randomly rebooting. To learn about other malware signs you and your team should watch out for, see our previous post on some tell-tale signs your computer has malware.
How to Prevent Malware
To prevent the presence of malware, it is essential for your business to take proactive measures against it. There are several approaches to preventing malware, and some just involve being aware of what kind of activity you are doing on your computer. Other methods include more technical anti-malware solutions, such as antivirus software. Here are some of the most common ways to protect yourself.
Practice Safe Browsing
One of the most common ways malware attacks computers is through phishing and email scams. There are a variety of cyber threats that come through email. To protect against malware, your email should be secure, and you should know how to spot potential scams. Carefully review any attached documents before opening them, and don’t click on any links unless you’re sure they are safe.
As a business, spam filtering can be a great option. Without it, you could be dealing with cybersecurity threats daily, wasting your company’s time. Spam filters can be customized to your company’s needs. By learning how to stop spam from clogging your inbox, your team can be more productive and stop worrying about constant security threats coming through email.
Additionally, safe browsing entails logging out of any open browsers once you’ve finished using them. Ensure your passwords are strong and unique, and change them often. If you have trouble remembering all of your passwords, look into using a password manager. There are many great options for password managers that will keep you and your team’s logins secure.
Finally, make sure you are on a secure connection. The web address should start with “HTTPS” instead of HTTP.” Another way to identify if the connection is secure or not is by the padlock to the left of the URL. This means that it’s a secure connection.
Malware can often show up in unexpected ways, through vulnerabilities in the system. One of the ways it does this is through exploit kits, which search your computer to find weaknesses. There are several ways you can protect against these exploits and ensure your company’s systems will not be attacked.
- Update all operating systems, plugins, and browsers.
- Enable click-to-play plugins to keep Flash or Java from running unless you allow them to.
- Remove any software you aren’t using.
Layer Your Security
Security experts agree that a multi-layer approach is the best way to protect against malware. Even if you are a safe browser and know how to detect spam, something may still happen to infect your network or device that is out of your control. If you want to cover all your bases, use a combination of anti-malware, firewall, anti-ransomware, and anti-exploit technology. These technologies, along with your vigilance, will keep you and your business guarded against malware.
Be Aware of Social Engineering
Along with practicing safe browsing, it’s essential to know that malware could show up in the form of cybercriminals who are targeting you or your company through email or social media scams. They have also used cold calling and fake tech support numbers. Be wary of anything that appears or sounds sketchy. An email can often be made to look like it’s coming from a reliable source, such as your bank. If something looks suspicious, check the sender’s address and read the email carefully. Never confirm your personal information over text. If you aren’t sure about something, contact your bank directly.
Another prevalent type of social engineering that could lead to infection is through tech support scams. Your security software will never detect a virus and ask you to pay money to fix it. If someone claims they are offering you tech support, but requesting a large sum of money for it, don’t take the bait. One other tactic is cold calling. The person on the line may make a claim about a virus on your computer or credit card fraud. Ask for more details if something seems off. When in doubt, offer to call the person back, then hang up and check with your credit card company directly. Educate your employees on the various social engineering tactics so they can stay alert.
Install Antivirus Software
Finally, installing antivirus software is a great way to protect against malware without having to worry about it. Antivirus software works by running in the background on your device, scanning servers and computers to find and stop the spread of malware. Many antivirus software types will alert the user in real-time of any threat found and provide protective measures against the malware.
It’s a good idea to consider adding antivirus software to your mail servers. This offers a proactive measure against malware, since it is typically spread through mail with dangerous links and attachments. Unfortunately, antivirus software is sometimes not enough to prevent malware. Read about why antivirus software isn’t enough for your business, and consider taking extra security steps. Network monitoring can provide more safety for your devices and can be an excellent proactive malware solution.
Being Proactive Against Malware
All of these efforts can protect you and your business from the threats of malware, whether they’re obvious or not. By creating a multi-layer approach to detect viruses, and educating your employees on the different types of malware, your business will be safe from cybersecurity threats.