The Internet can be a dangerous place, whether you are a large organization or just an everyday user. And as digital technologies open up new possibilities, cybercriminals are getting smarter and smarter to take advantage of them.
According to the CrowdStrike 2022 Global Threat Report (Opens in a new tab)There has been an 82% increase in ransomware-related data leaks in the past year. At the same time, Iranian state-backed hackers were recently convicted of spying on users via fake VPN apps. Phishing campaigns, like the recent one that targeted shoppers on Black Friday, are often the easiest way to do this.
What all these attacks have in common is malware that evades the security infrastructure of one or more devices to harm its users. This is what is known, in technical terms, as malware.
You might be tempted to think that just downloading one of the best antivirus apps is all you need to secure your information. However, to truly protect your device from infection, the truth is less clear. Since malware can be so diverse, your protection plan must be diverse as well.
The best defense against malware isn’t just a suite of security software, either. You must know your enemy before you defeat him. Knowledge and precautions are the first weapons needed to fight back!
What is malware?
Malware is an abbreviation for malicious software, a general term that defines software that is injected into a specific device to harm its users. It usually involves the allocation of sensitive data. This may be for economic gain, as in the case of ransomware. Or often too Spying programs Apps that illegally monitor people.
virusesAnd wormsAnd Trojans And adware They are some of the most common types, and although they have different purposes and modes of action, they share some common characteristics. And just like how viruses work in the real world, malware can spread easily and quickly among digital users.
The most common types of malware:
- ransomware: Once it infiltrates a device, it encrypts users’ data and systems, preventing access to them until the ransom is paid. They usually target organizations rather than individuals, and are often spread through malicious files.
- Spying programs: As the name suggests, this type of malware aims to collect data to illegally monitor users. Keyloggers are a form of spyware that monitors users’ activities, for example. Spyware often gets into devices through fake or legitimate apps.
- Trojans: These are the apps that pretend to be legitimate, while the malicious actor strikes in the background without the users even realizing it. It can be found in many different programs such as games or other popular applications, plus it comes in the form of an attachment to a malicious email.
- virus: the most famous of malware, viruses actually make up a small portion of today’s attacks. It is a piece of malicious code that modifies legitimate software and launches an attack as soon as the application starts. These include DDoS attacks, ransomware, or data harvesting.
- worm: The oldest form of malware, it generally targets bugs and other application vulnerabilities to infect a device’s operating system. They can be easily detected by a good antivirus and scanned very quickly.
- bot: Not necessarily malware, a bot is software that allows tasks to be carried out automatically. Search engines, for example, use it to index pages. Hackers exploit it to connect other malware to a central server.
- adwareAdware: One of the most disturbing forms of malware, adware isn’t terribly harmful – but it can be impossible to live with. In short, it is an ad-supported program that has ended up on your device, and while it may not track you or steal your data, it will constantly show you ads and pop-ups until you uninstall it.
- malware sweeperIts purpose is probably evident by its name: erasing all data stored on the target device. Malicious actors generally use such malware to cover up any traces of a cyber attack being carried out.
- Malware without files: Behind some of the most successful attacks, this malware does not need any installation to launch its attacks. It does this by modifying the operating system’s original files instead. What’s worse, antivirus software can fail to detect such a risk.
- RootkitPrimarily spread via phishing email attachments or infected shared files, it is a program that enables hackers to take full control of users’ devices, bypassing security controls. You should be really careful when downloading suspicious files, because these types of malware are very invasive and difficult to remove.
How to prevent malware from infecting your device
Since the web is full of different malware that act in different ways, an effective defense against it must be diversified to protect your device from all possible fronts.
Here are some of the procedures that you should consider adopting regularly.
1. Use a trusted antivirus program
It goes without saying that a reliable antivirus is a piece of technology that all users should have on their devices – yes, also an antivirus for Mac. This is because it will verify that every file and program is free of malware before installing it. At the same time, you can schedule regular scans and customize monitor settings according to your needs. Just keep in mind that some malware can escape its control.
2. Keep the software up to date
Cyber criminals are used to take advantage of operating system and application vulnerabilities to launch attacks. This means that it is necessary to update your system and software to reduce the risks. Enable automatic updates to make sure you don’t miss out.
3. Be careful with emails
Emails are one of the simplest ways to spread several types of malware. This can be done by malicious attachments or malicious links included in the copy. Beware of those that seem too good to be true, encouraging you to click links or share personal details like passwords. Consider adjusting your spam filters and reporting any email that looks suspicious.
4. Enable multi-factor authentication
A security practice that adds an extra layer of protection to your online accounts, you should turn on multi-factor authentication every time you have the option. From email apps and online banking to social media platforms, more and more services now offer two-factor authentication as an optional factor.
5. Back up your files regularly
We mentioned the danger that cyberattacks such as ransomware or scanning malware pose to your files. In the first place, you often can’t regain control of your data even after payment is approved, while the latter erases all the material on your device with a single click. Therefore, backing up files regularly to an external hard drive or encrypted cloud storage is the best defense in case you get targeted.
6. Consider other security software
Antivirus isn’t the only tool that can give you protection from malware. Some of the best VPN services, for example, now come with additional features to block invasive trackers and malicious websites. These include threat protection from NordVPN and Netshield from Proton VPN. Surfshark One is another security package that also offers identity scanning that will warn you if your information is leaked. Moreover, you will need a good malware removal tool to clean your device after it has been attacked.
7. Pay attention to the warning signs
Although, be careful and download the appropriate security software, malware may find a way to infect your device anyway. In these cases, the faster you react, the greater your chances of minimizing your risk. As with every type of disease, you need to pay attention to the symptoms to find treatment. This includes your device freezing or crashing, programs running on their own, a hard drive that is suddenly and strangely full, and emails sent without your knowledge.