Malware is an umbrella term used to describe any malicious software designed to harm, exploit, or extract sensitive data from a system, device, or network. Cybercriminals use malicious software to access sensitive information they can use for financial gain. Stolen data can include anything from your payment details to your medical records, passwords, and more.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- Why do Cybercriminals Use Malware?
- How does Malware Spread?
- Types of Malware
- Warning Signs Cour computer Is Infected by Malware
- How to Protect Yourself from Malware?
Why do Cybercriminals Use Malware?
The motives behind malware vary. In most cases, however, malware is about profiting from data theft by:
- Stealing consumer credit card information and other financial data.
- Tricking a target into providing sensitive information for identity theft
- Infecting systems and using them to mine cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
- Gaining control of multiple computers to launch denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against other networks.
How Does Malware Spread?
These are some ways malware can find its way into your devices:
Phishing emails trick a victim into clicking on a link or opening an attachment that contains a malicious file. These emails appear to come from friends, trusted sources, or reputable organizations. Once opened, however, the malware code runs and starts carrying out actions on your system.
Infected USB drive
Infected USB drives are used whenever an attacker needs physical access to a computer. Once plugged into your device, an infected USB drive auto-executes the malware code.
Malicious advertisement, generally known as malvertising, is a tactic that attempts to distribute malware through online advertisements. It typically involves cybercriminals injecting infected ads into legitimate advertising networks that get displayed on websites we trust. While some malicious ads require you to click on them to get infected, others can infect you automatically as soon as the page loads.
Fake software installations
You may be thinking you managed to find a movie, song, or software for free, when in reality you fell for a bait that downloads malware to your computer.
While apps available on an official app store are usually safe, some come from less legitimate sources that can contain malware.
Types of Malware
There are many types of malware out there and understanding the different types can help you protect your devices better. Here are some of the most common types:
A virus is a program that self-replicates by inserting its code into other programs. Viruses are distributed via emails, websites, or flash drives and activate when a victim opens the infected file. Viruses can lead to deleted or encrypted files, modified applications, or system malfunctions.
Ransomware is malware designed to block access to a computer system until a ransom is paid. Hackers demand cryptocurrency in exchange for the decryption key that allows you to access your data again.
Scareware is a malware tactic that manipulates users into downloading malicious software. It usually comes in the form of pop-up ads that impersonate anti-virus companies informing you that your system’s files have been infected. This tactic takes advantage of a user’s fear to pressure them into buying fake anti-malware software.
A computer worm is malware that reproduces itself and spreads from system to system without human assistance. Worms can exploit security software vulnerabilities, steal sensitive information, corrupt files, and install backdoor access to a system. They also utilize a large amount of memory so affected computers and servers can overload and fail to respond.
Spyware is software designed to capture your activity and sensitive information without your knowledge or consent. Your information is then relayed to data firms, advertisers, or sold on the dark web for profit.
A trojan, or trojan horse, is malware disguised as legitimate software. Many modern forms of this malware allow cybercriminals to create a backdoor in your computer system that gives them unauthorized access. Unlike worms or viruses, trojans do not replicate themselves but they are used a lot in ransomware attacks to access users’ sensitive information.
Adware is software designed to serve advertisements to you, either within your web browser or in other programs. Adware isn’t always bad. Some free apps, for instance, include adware as a way to make revenue from ads. Malicious adware, however, bombards you with infected ads that harm your computer.
Warning Signs Your Computer Is Infected by Malware
Here are the most common signs that your system has been compromised by malware.
- Slow Computer: If your operating system and other programs are taking a while to startup it’s an indication that your system might be infected by malware. This is especially if you recently installed a program you are not familiar with.
- Blue screen of death: If your computer crashes regularly, it may be a malware infection. Known as the blue screen of death (BSOD) – it’s a common indicator a malware is causing trouble behind the scenes.
- Suspicious activity: If your hard drive is working excessively when no other programs are running, then you should scan your system for malware. Similarly, if you see unrecognized changes or files generated on your computer – this can be an indication of a malware infection.
- Frequent pop-ups: if you’re having ads unwanted ads pop up frequently, it may be a sign of adware or scareware.
- Browser redirects: If your browser frequently takes you to websites do not intend to visit
How to Protect Yourself from Malware?
The best thing you can do to protect your sensitive information and devices from malware is to practice safe online habits. Here are some tips you can follow:
Avoid suspicious sites and downloads. Torrent sites, illegal downloads, and apps that come from an unknown source all put your devices at risk of malware.
Double-check the source. Think twice before clicking on a link. Make sure it’s from a trusted source.
Update your devices. Keep your software, applications, and operating system updated. Hackers always look for vulnerabilities in outdated software. Make sure to install updates regularly.
Protect your devices. Do not leave your devices unattended and make sure to lock them with a password or biometric lock.
Keep the Essentials. Limit the number of applications on your device. Only keep those apps on your phone that you use regularly. Uninstall an application if you no longer use it.
Use anti-malware software. Anti-malware software is designed to prevent, detect, and remove malware that tries to infect your devices. We recommend anti-malware software that has the following features:
- Complete Data Protection. Anti-malware that defends against all e-threats, including viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, zero-day exploits, rootkits and spyware. Rest easy knowing your data is safe.
- Anti-Phishing: Phishing scams are on the rise and are one of the main ways people get tricked into exposing their sensitive information. Look for anti-malware software that comes with advanced anti-phishing protection to help you easily avoid malicious designed to steal your passwords, financial data, and other data.
- Anti-Fraud. Look for a filtering system that alerts you when you visit a website that may try to scam you.
- Advanced Threat Defense. You should be able to scan apps on your devices for any signs of malware. If any suspicious activity is detected, you want to be able to take immediate action to protect your data and devices.
- Web Attack Prevention. Check for web-filtering technology that helps you avoid harmful websites. A good anti-malware software will block infected links and let you know whether your search results are safe to access before you click on a link.
- Social Network Protection. Stay protected from malicious links and other online threats on social media.
- Anti-Spam. This feature allows you to filter spam and other suspicious emails from your inbox.