It’s nice to think that we have complete control over what we install onto our laptops, desktop computers, or devices. But actually, in a world where cybercriminals are ready to pounce at every keystroke, tap of your screen, or click of your mouse, you might feel anything but in control. Malware is a big threat and a big deal for businesses, as well as home users, with the potential to bring entire networks to a grinding halt. In this info-packed article, we’ll explain exactly what malware is, as well as how you can detect it, stop it, and get rid of it.
What is malware?
The name ‘malware’ is a mash-up of two words: ‘malicious’ and ‘software’. That should give you a pretty good idea of what malware’s all about. But it’s also a ‘catch-all’ name for any type of malicious software, virus, or file that’s designed and created purely to disrupt, damage, disable, or gain unauthorised access to any computer system or network.
Malware is an easy way for cybercriminals to gain access to financial or personal data, either from individuals or huge corporations, to cause maximum damage. The motivation behind a malware attack can differ, but there’s usually some kind of financial gain for them – by attempting to get you to pay money so your computer or system can be restored – or it may be just a random act of sabotage to stop you or your company from getting any work done.
What does malware do?
Whatever the reason behind a malware attack, malware in any and all its forms has the definite power to steal, corrupt, or disable, or delete your data. It does this by working out and unlocking weak passwords, or being let in inadvertently, so it can get deep inside any system before spreading through any networks you might be connected to.
Different types of malware can lock specific files so you can’t open them, create spam adverts you can’t get rid of, or even redirect you to linked websites that are just as malicious as the software itself. When a cyberattack happens, it happens big time and the results can be devastating, ranging from theft of personal data to bringing down entire systems and networks, even mass disruption to vital healthcare.
So, ‘malware’ is a pretty broad, coverall term for cyberattacks with different forms causing havoc in different ways. But let’s look at some of the most common types of malware.
Different types of malware
With ever-advancing technology, the different types of malware and their effects can change, morph, or develop regularly. But there are some subtle differences between them and how they can infect your computer or network. Here are some of the most common types of malware:
A very common type of malware. A virus will usually be sent to you as a file attachment in an email. It might look innocent enough, but when opened, the file unleashes the malware that causes your computer to become infected, deleting or corrupting your files.
This type of malware slips in under your radar and often comes in the form of a standard, even innocent-looking, app. Once you install it, the malware latches onto your system and can start to delete files, steal personal data and passwords, or crash your computer.
A worm highlights how important it is to keep on top of any operating system security updates. If you don’t update your security regularly, it leaves your system vulnerable to attack. A worm can enter an unprotected system causing damage to files and data, before travelling across networks to infect other devices.
Adware is cunning and deceptive. It often makes itself known to you as flashing, ‘too good to be true’ pop-up adverts online, ironically even posing as anti-virus software ads, to get you to click through and pay money.
A lucrative and popular form of malware for any cybercriminal. Ransomware targets entire systems and usually arrives as an innocent-looking email attachment. When opened, it locks files, then demands payment (or ransom), usually via bitcoin, for unlocking them again.
Installed onto your device, often without your knowledge, Spyware serves one purpose: to sit in the background and spy on you. Undetected, it silently collects personal data, passwords, financial details, and sensitive information while logging your online habits, before feeding the info back to someone else.
How does malware get onto your computer?
As we’ve seen, malware has many different ways of getting into your computer or device. The two most common ways malware can get onto your computer is by being online and through your email. So basically, any time you’re connected to the internet – which, in this day and age, is pretty much all the time. Malware has the opportunity to attach itself to your system if you:
- unintentionally visit a hacked website
- visit a website after clicking an ad
- inadvertently download infected files or apps
- open and install software from an unknown provider
- open email attachments without knowing who they’re from
But the one thing any malware has in common is you. This is what malware, and the people behind it, rely on: you being too busy or lacking the information to know any different. But it’s easy to get caught out. Files, adverts, and software can look very convincing and most people, whatever their IT background, have been caught out before, so it’s easily done.
How can you stop malware?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to actually stop malware. Cybercriminals will also look to developing more elaborate ways to infect your computer or a corporation’s network to cause havoc. But there are ways to protect yourself and our cybersecurity services are a great place to start.
Though there’s plenty of malware variants out there, the easiest way to prevent malware attacks from happening to you is to install solid, trustworthy anti-malware software and anti-virus software onto your devices. Beyond that, it’s a case of staying alert and vigilant online, but these tips should help you:
- Keep your operating systems and apps up to date
- Limit the number of apps you have on your device and delete any you no longer use
- Don’t click on any unknown links in emails or text messages
- Ignore – and never click – any flashing pop-up adverts
- Beware of any emails or texts asking for ANY personal or financial details
- Don’t open any email attachments unless you’re 100% sure of what it is and who sent it
Get your cybersecurity from Geeks On Wheels
With this background knowledge, plus some good anti-malware software, you’ll be in a good – and safe – position to protect yourself and your computer or network from malicious attacks. But when you need reliable, independent advice to get started or specialist cyber support, our Geeks on Wheels, full on-site or remote support has you covered. Contact us today and we’ll help you get the malware protection and peace of mind you need.