Malware, short for malicious software, is a collective term for any program or file designed to cause damage to a computer, server, or network. Malware has been a threat to organizations and individuals since 1971 when the world’s first computer virus — the Creeper — appeared.
Fast forward to 2020 and we are under attack from thousands of different malware variants. Malware attacks have skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The unprecedented rise in malware attacks is largely attributable to the mass relocation of office workers from the relative safety of corporate networks to their homes.
But that’s not all. We are also shopping, learning, and dating online now more than ever. Hackers and other online threat actors are taking this opportunity to increase malware attacks against individuals and organizations.
Different Types of Malware
Malware is one of the biggest threats in the digital world. There are many different types of malware, each with its own attack vector (method of delivery). It’s important that you know how to identify different types of malware in order to keep your personal computer and company network from being compromised.
Below, we look at the common types of malware, what they are capable of, and how they find their way into your computer or network.
A computer virus is what most end-users call every malware program they encounter. But not every malware program is a virus. Viruses are designed to corrupt data, reformat the hard drive, or shut down the target computer or system completely. Viruses are usually spread via email attachments, file sharing, or infected websites in the form of an executable file.
Worm is another common malware variant capable of doing some serious damage to your system. Worms can modify and delete files, steal data, and create a backdoor for hackers. Worms replicate themselves over and over. Worms commonly spread via phishing attacks and software vulnerabilities.
A trojan horse masquerades as a legitimate, harmless program, but contains malicious instructions. Trojans give hackers access to a computer or a network. Unlike worms, trojans don’t need a host to work. Cybercriminals can monitor user activity, modify files, install more malware, and steal data through the trojan horse.
Spyware is a form of malware designed to record your online activity. Spyware collects personal information such as passwords, usernames, financial data, and browsing habits. Spyware is commonly distributed as freeware and is designed to run in the background without your knowledge.
One of the most common forms of malware these days, adware exposes users to unwanted, potentially malicious ads. The goal of adware is to serve pop-up and display ads that often have no relevance to the user. Typically, adware finds its way to your computer through browser vulnerability.
Ransomware is a type of malware that holds your files hostage and demands payment to release them back to you. This type of malware has become very common especially during the pandemic. Ransomware is commonly distributed via phishing emails.
Ways to Increase Protection Against Malware
As you can see, malware comes in a bewildering variety of forms. Malware can cause a lot of damage to your system. It’s, therefore, important to protect your system by effecting a layered approach to security. Here are a few effective ways to increase protection against malware.
Antivirus/antimalware can detect and remove certain types of malware from your system. Use reliable antivirus software on your computer to detect and prevent malware from being installed on your computer. Update the antivirus regularly to ensure that it has all the latest virus and malware definitions.
For businesses, staff training is one of the most effective malware deterrents available. Some of the most destructive malware variants such as ransomware are distributed via phishing emails. Training employees to identify phishing emails can go a long way towards protecting yourself.
Keep Your System Up to Date
Keeping your software up to date is vital for cybersecurity. Gaps in software updates can make computing devices vulnerable to hacking attempts. Update your devices regularly to prevent attacks. Your operating system, apps, and firmware should be always up to date.
Activating the firewall is an effective way to defend your computer or network against a wide range of external threats, including malware. When enabled, the firewall will monitor inbound connections and block unwanted traffic and keep your computer and network safe.
Use a VPN
Use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your connection from malicious threat actors lurking on the internet, especially when using public Wi-Fi. Use a reputable VPN when you connect to unsecured networks to ensure protection against malware spread by cybercriminals on these networks.
The pandemic has left a huge number of people working from home. People are basically doing everything online. With more people digitally connected than ever, the surface for malware attacks has increased exponentially. The only way to protect yourself and your business is to implement multiple layers of security.