Being aware of malware, and how to protect your computer

Malware programs can cause so many problematic issues when using the internet, and they’re more common than you may think. They are also so many varieties that it would be nearly impossible to cover them all. Every hacker has their own agenda and strategies to insert into their own malware, meaning that there are millions of different types being created every month, often making their way on to your computer by web downloads, misleading banner ads, or even by emails sent to you.

What you can quickly learn about are the general types out there and what they look like. Many people already defend themselves perfectly, and you can as well. All are meant to harm you, your computer or your data.  The first thing you need to think about is that there is no limitation on what a piece of malware can do except the imagination of the hacker. Nonetheless, trends do emerge such as annoying pop ups and adverts, software claiming to speed up your computer, stealing personal data, sending spam emails from your computer or encrypting or even totally deleting your files.

Here are the main types of malware that you need to know about:

Ransomware

Out of all the types of malware out there, ransomware appears to be the most immediately menacing and hardest to get rid of. It works by effectively locking down your computer and then demanding a payment to unlock it, often pretending to be a security program in the process.

Don’t fall for it, as ransomware never leaves you alone, even if you pay the ransom. They’ll just want more. The best method to fight it is to not get it in the first place.  Don’t give in to pressure and keep a calm head should you encounter it.  Be careful when opening emails, especially when an email is from an unknown sender, or has suspicious looking attachments.

Often ransomware will also lock your files by encrypting them so that you can’t open them.  Of course, if you have a backup, that can help to restore them.  If you need help with a backup system or strategy for your business please do contact us.

Rootkits

Rootkits are the absolute worst in terms of how difficult it is to get rid of them. They hide by acting as files within your operating system itself, and are therefore nearly undetectable by scanners. They’re also undetectable to any but the most experienced of IT technicians, and generally it is preferable to simply wipe the hard drive and start over instead of spending many hours looking through files. Fortunately, they are more difficult than other types of malware to install, and most hackers won’t find your information worth the extra effort.

Spyware

Personal data is valuable, and the creators of spyware know this. The main goal of a piece of spyware is to remain undetected while collecting information on the user, usually with identity theft as the end goal. It might also be put on your computer to scope out vulnerabilities for later attacks. A manual check of all of your files and frequent scans (with a good malware defence program) are your best hope for detecting and destroying it.

Adware

Adware is much maligned subset of malware that focuses on selling you things you didn’t know you didn’t want to have. They’re often paired with other types of malware to maximize effectiveness, and the ads themselves nearly always lead to a scam or legally questionable activity. The sooner it is deleted, the less of a risk that other types of malware will invade and cause deeper problems than pop-up ads from your browser or desktop.

How to protect yourself

While the nature of malware will change significantly over time, there are tools and strategies you can use in order to improve your general defence against these kinds of threats and more.

Most users should have some form of anti-virus or security protection on their computer. Additionally you need to update it whenever possible, as hackers and malware distributors take advantage of the gap between average update time and update release.

Most cybersecurity problems are caused by people neglecting important habits, so the most important thing you need to work on is your own cybersecurity strategy. Only use websites that you trust, and don’t download any file or open any email that looks suspicious. If you let a piece of malware in the front door with an invitation, your tools won’t be able to help you.

If you are having problems with virus, malware or need to discuss protection for your computer or business systems, please do contact us.