Beware of Malware: What You Need to Know

What is Malware?

Malicious + Software = Malware

Put simply, malware is any piece of software that was written with the intent of disabling or damaging devices, stealing data, and generally causing a mess without the owner’s knowledge. Ransomware, viruses, spyware and Trojans are just a few common types of malware designed to infiltrate computers.

As malware attacks continue to grow in both frequency and sophistication, it is becoming increasingly difficult for enterprises to defend against them; your defense starts with knowing what to look out for; becoming familiar with the common types of malware and the necessary steps to take to avoid malware is critical in keeping malware out of your life.

Types of Malware

Ransomware– This kind of malware typically locks you out of your computer and files, threatening to erase everything unless you pay a ransom.

Adware – Adware (Advertising-supported + Software) is seen in those irritating pop-ups and advertisements, often promoting free versions of software. Most adware is not dangerous. However, it could contain spyware which is used to track user activity and steal private information.

Spyware – Spyware is exactly what it sounds like: Malware designed to spy on you. It hides in the background tracking and keeping tabs on your online activity, including your passwords, credit card numbers, browsing habits and more.

Viruses – A computer virus is a lot like a human viral condition. It is capable of replicating itself and spreading to other files or programs which can then spread to other computers. They can spread uncontrollably, damaging a system’s core functionality and deleting or corrupting files. They usually appear as an executable file (.exe.)

Worms – Worms infect an entire network of devices by spreading copies of itself from computer to computer. Worms often use parts of an operating system that are automatic and invisible to the user. 

Trojans – A Trojan is a type of malware that disguises itself as a legitimate file or program that tricks users into downloading malware. The most dangerous types of Trojans are the programs that claim to rid your system of viruses but end up introducing your computer to a host of infections and other forms of malware.

Bots – Bots or Botnets are networks of infected computers that are made to work together under the control of an attacker

How to Avoid Malware

The biggest security risk is always the user. Yep, you read that right. Our curiosity can quickly lead us down virtual alleys that may not seem dark and scary, but actually have something malicious hiding around the corner. Malware can generally be easily avoided; all it takes is a little common sense and proactivity.

Avoid suspicious links and emails – When you receive an unsolicited or suspicious-looking link or email, avoid it. Many times these are phishing emails intended to appear legitimate to trick users into downloading malware or revealing sensitive information.

Avoid suspicious websites – Malware attackers often spoof popular websites, so if you notice anything odd or suspicious on a website (like the URL, website features, web design, etc.) be cautious and don’t enter any sensitive data. To ensure that a website you’re visiting is authentic, read the URL carefully and check that the site uses HTTPS (the ‘s’ in HTTPS stands for ‘secure’ so that users know the website encrypts the user’s data.)

Ensure that all security patches and updates are installed – There’s a reason why our computers and phones send us mandatory notifications to inform us when there’s a new software update; operating systems and software are continually being refined and improved and when they are, it better protects and detects against any threats.

Turn on your firewall – Your firewall is the set of rules that determines the information that can access your PC, so you want to make sure that it is correctly configured and turned on at all times.

Review software carefully before downloading – Before installing anything new on a computer or device, including free or trial versions of software, look into the program and its reviews to ensure legitimacy.

Install an anti-virus/anti-malware software – Using anti-virus programs that constantly watch over your system will safeguard against common malware and security risks. With anti-virus software, many infiltrations are blocked and prevented before they happen. Anti-virus software won’t detect every single piece of malware that is out there, but it is a useful standard defense against common malware attacks.

What to Do if Malware Gets on YOUR Computer

Take quick action if you suspect there is malware on your computer. Stop using it and unplug it from your network and its power supply. If your computer is not accessible to you, it’s inaccessible to a hacker, too.

Contact your trusted IT professional and let them know about the situation. They may want to reinstall your computer’s operating system and all of the software you use. They’ll also give you advice on the best way to open files on your computer that may still be infected.

With so many different forms of malware out there, you may be nervous about your computer getting infected. Having an IT professional who knows how to combat malware and protect your sensitive data is essential for you and your company. Here at Elevated Technologies, we can handle your entire IT, ensuring the highest level of protection through consistent maintenance, monitoring and updating. Contact us today to shield your company from invasive malware.

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