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What is Malware and How Does it Spread?
According to experts, a cyber attack occurs every 11 seconds.
Let that sink in.
Any time you are connected to the internet, you are vulnerable to malware. And despite the huge number of anti-malware tools available, cybercriminals are always finding new ways to break through the noise. The cyber-world is a constant tug-of-war between criminals and security professionals. One side is always finding new ways to compromise systems, and the other is constantly creating defense systems.
Unfortunately, malware is one of the most common cyber attacks around. It will exist as long as cyber crimes continue to be profitable — so don’t expect it to go away anytime soon!
As always, the best defense is knowledge. So let’s get into it.
Is malware a virus?
Malware aka malicious software is a type of program that hackers use to obtain sensitive information from computer networks. These programs can perform different functions to compromise your computer, data, or network — such as encrypting or deleting sensitive data, altering core computing functions, stealing information, or monitoring user activity.
If you are still asking yourself ‘what is malware ’ start with this: Malware is any type of malicious software, regardless of its mechanism, intent, or distribution method. For those of you wondering ‘is malware a virus’ — a virus is a specific type of malware that self-replicates by inserting its code into other programs. So, only certain types of malware are viruses.
What are the most common examples of malware?
Some of the most common forms of malware are:
● Ransomware - A form of malware that can lock you out of a device and encrypt your files, allowing cyber attackers to threaten publishing users’ information until a ransom is paid.
● Adware - Unwanted software disguised as a legitimate hyperlink that throws advertisements onto your screen with inviting messages to click on it.
● Trojan Virus - One of the most malicious forms of malware, usually disguised as something useful, encouraging the victim to click on it. Once in your computer systems it can steal important information, including financial data.
● Worms - Similar to viruses, worms are self-replicating software. However, their “behavior” is distinct from viruses in that worms can spread across the system on their own, without user assistance.
● Rootkit - Provides cyber attackers with administrative privileges once they get into the network or computer system.
Who does malware target?
No one is immune to cyber crimes. Individuals and businesses are targeted every day. Adware, keyloggers, or malvertising typically compromise individuals, while ransomware attacks tend to target businesses, larger organizations, hospitals, and retail store systems with more money making potential.
How can I tell if my device is infected by malware?
Some telltale signs that your device is infected with malware are:
● Your computer slows down
● You lose access to your files or your computer
● You experience an increased number of unexpected pop-ups
● Your system crashes
● Your browser’s settings change
● Your antivirus software stops working
How to protect against malware?
Some of the things you can do include:
● Avoid opening email attachments from an unknown sender
● Make your passwords stronger and change them often
● Use multifactor authentication
● Don’t click on pop-up ads
● Don’t download software from unknown websites
● Back up your data regularly
● Update your security software
● Invest in cyber security staff training in your organization
Conclusion: What is Malware and How Does it Spread?
Since no one is immune to malware, you should always be cognizant of the potential risks associated with clicking or downloading something suspicious. Malware attacks can be very damaging — causing personal data damage, financial damage, and leaks of valuable information.
For more tips on how to prevent cyberattacks, click here.
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