Malware uses a vulnerability to breach a network when a user clicks a dangerous link or downloads/opens an email attachment, common methods used to install malicious software inside the system. The term malware includes various types of threats including spyware, viruses, and worms.
Malware and malicious files inside a computer system can:
- Deny access to certain network components.
- Obtain sensitive information from the hard drive.
- Make the system inoperable.
Types of Malware
Ransomware is an increasingly popular type of malware that denies access to the victim’s data, threatening to publish or delete it unless a ransom is paid. Advanced ransomware uses cryptoviral extortion, encrypting the victim’s data and making decryption impossible without the decryption key.
Viruses attach themselves to executable code or associate themselves with files by creating a malicious file with the same name but with an .exe extension.
Worms are often installed through email attachments, sending copies of their source code to every contact in the infected computer email list. Unlike viruses, they do not attack the host, being self-contained programs that spread across networks and devices. Worms are frequently utilized to overburden email servers to conduct denial-of-service attacks.
Trojans are programs hiding inside other programs for malicious purposes. Unlike viruses, a trojan does not replicate itself and it is commonly used to establish a backdoor that can be exploited by hackers.
Spyware is what we call a software installed to collect data about users, their systems or browsing history, sending the captured data to a hacker. The attacker can then use the information for blackmailing purposes or to download and install other malicious programs.
Keyloggers are similar to spyware, except that they track the victim’s activity. Everything the victim types in is sent to the hacker and can eventually be used for blackmail or identity theft.
Which devices can be affected?
No device is immune to malware.
Also, both Android and iOS mobile devices can be infected with malware. Many types of mobile-specific malware are spread via SMS, besides the standard email vectors.
Common symptoms of malware infection
The most common signs that your device has been compromised by malware are:
- Slow device performance.
- URL redirections, basically the user is redirected to websites he/she did not intend to visit.
- Infection warnings, frequently along with requests to buy some software solutions to fix them.
- Problems shutting down or restarting your device.
- Frequent pop-up ads.
The more of these common symptoms you see, the higher the likelihood your device was infected.
How to protect your data against malware
Even though there are a lot of types of malware out there, there are solutions and tips your staff can implement to protect your business against such threats.
Protect your devices.
Keep your operating system and applications updated. Hackers look for vulnerabilities in old or outdated software, so make sure you install updates as soon as they become available.
Never click on a link in a popup. Just close the window and never revisit the website that generated it.
Only install apps you need and use regularly. If you no longer use an app, it is advisable to uninstall it.
Use a mobile security solution. Malware and adware campaigns are getting increasingly popular, so make sure your mobile devices are protected against such threats by utilizing a top-tier mobile security solution.
Do not lend out your smartphone or leave your computer unattended. Also, in case your default settings have been changed, or a new app has mysteriously appeared, this might be proof that spyware or a keylogger has been enabled.
Avoid clicking unknown links. Whether it comes via email, a social account, or a text message, if a link seems suspicious, stay away from it.
Only use known and trusted websites. So, avoid risky websites, such as non-HTTPS websites.
Keep an eye on emails requesting personal information. If an email appears to come from your bank and instructs you to click a link to reset your password or access your account, do not click it. Go directly to your online banking website/app and log in there.
Pay extra attention to downloads and other software purchases.
Make sure you purchase security software from respectable companies using their official stores.
Don’t utilize jailbroken or rooted devices, in order not to put your data at risk.
When looking for your next favorite app, make sure you read app reviews first, utilize only official app stores, and if something looks fishy, it would be safer to avoid it.
If you are concerned that your device may be infected, run a scan using a security software you trust.
Do not open an unexpected email attachment, even if it came from a friend or someone you know.