Malware. You hear about it constantly, are told to protect against it, but do you really know what it is?

Malware Malware Malware!

You hear about it constantly, are told to protect against it, but do you really know what it is?

“A data breach comes as a result of a cyberattack that allows cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to a computer system or network and steal the private, sensitive, or confidential personal and financial data of the customers or users contained within.”

Let’s start at the beginning. The term malware comes from malicious software. Malware is any piece of software (viruses, spyware, trojans, and ransomware are the most well-known) that was written with malicious intent. Malware differs in severity and can vary from producing annoying adware, to devastating computer systems. Why do hackers create malware? The overwhelming amount of malware is created to make money illegally. Malware not only damages devices, but it can also steal data- valuable data from users’ computers.

How does Malware get on your computer?

  • Questionable downloads (even from sometimes trusted sources)
  • Visiting infected websites
  • Phishing emails containing harmful links or attachments that is clicked or downloaded

Let’s look at the common types of malware that exist

  • Virus: Perhaps the most common type of malware, viruses are usually contained in an executable file and attach their malicious code to clean code. Viruses wait for an unsuspecting user or an automated process to execute them and can spread quickly and widely.
  • Trojan: This kind of malware misleads users of its true intent by either disguising itself as genuine software, or hiding in corrupted software. Personal information on a user’s system can be compromised as hackers gain access to their system and files.
  • Spyware: It infects computers or network by hiding in the background and monitors all of the activity a user is performing online. This includes their credit card data, passwords, and browsing behavior.
  • Worm: Worms infect multiple computers on a network, by using network interfaces. It uses each infected machine to infect others.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware will lock down a computer or threaten to publish a user’s data and files, unless they pay a ransom.
  • Adware: Adware is considered conditionally dangerous because while it is not always malicious, it definitely can become a nuisance. Adware spreads itself in order to get more information on the user and their preferences- which slows down their system and can lower computers’ anti-viral defenses.
  • Botnets: Bad botnets are networks of compromised computers that work together under the control of a malicious third-party. Once the botnet’s owner is in control of a computer, they usually use that machine to perform other nefarious tasks. Botnets can be used to carry out denial-of-service attacks, steal data and send spam.

Whether malware is dangerous or just plain annoying, it is vital that users understand how to recognize and protect themselves from malware- in whatever form it takes.

Personal vigilance, and protective tools.

One of the most prevalent ways to spread malware is through sending tainted email, which the user believes if from a trusted company or friend. It is important to note for language or images or layout that appear to be “off”.  And report it to the source they are claiming to be! Always be wary when an email asks you to provide your password to something. Also think twice before clicking an ambiguous link such as “Check out this cool site!” Better to check with the source first, if from a friend, to ensure the link is legitimate.  Always trust your gut-if an email doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Good Malware Protection

  • It checks any newly downloaded program to ensure that it is malware-free.
  • It periodically scans the computer to detect and defeat any malware that might have slipped through.
  • It is regularly updated to recognize the latest threats.
  • It detects and warns against suspicious websites, especially those that may be designed for “phishing”

With smart cyber criminals and malicious tech advancements, no protection is absolute. But a combination of strong personal consciousness of the threats and methods that exist, and the implementation of anti-malware tools, you are doing your best to keep your computer and your data safe.