Malware is a definition of a wide range of programs which gain access to and damage users’ machines, including PCs, desktops and portable devices. Usually, the malware takes a partial or full control over a device’s OS and serves different purposes set by its creators.
The ultimate goal behind malware is to bring money to the hacker. But the ways to do that are different. Some malicious programs would silently steal users’ data, including, banking info and account’s credentials. Some programs such as ransomware would be more direct and ask for money right away.
As technology progresses, more sophisticated types of malware appear. AV-TEST Institute registers more than 350,000 new malicious programs and potentially unwanted applications every day. And Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report notes that there are 24,000 of malicious mobile apps that are being blocked daily.
So, is there anything each of us can do to stay out of big trouble? The answer is Yes. In fact, the steps are so simple that it is surprising that not everybody makes them.
How to Recognize Malware Presence on Your Device?
Malware can live in your machine for quite long before you start noticing that something is not ok. But most of the time you don’t have to be a specialist to see that there is something wrong with your computer. Here are the signals that your OS is probably infected:
- Your machine works slower or freezes. The reason is simple: malware reduces the speed of your OS no matter what you do – use the Internet or just work with your Excel files.
- OS constantly crashes so you need to restart your computer more often.
- You find out that the space on your disk significantly decreased, but you have not installed anything heavy.
- The fan of your computer is working louder than usually, system resources are depleting, and the battery on your mobile device dies quickly. Those are signs showing that malware consumes your resources.
- You get many annoying advertisements in the form of popups. Most of the time, it is a sign that your machine is hit by adware. Watch out and never click on any links the popup is offering no matter how attractive the offer is.
- The homepage in your browser has suddenly changed. Or you click on usual links but open different pages. It means that you have downloaded malicious software, most likely, without even knowing that.
- You notice odd toolbars, plugins or extensions in your browser.
- Your mobile phone starts sending SMS and calling people from your contact list or turns on WiFi and Internet connections on its own.
- Your antivirus software does not work properly, and it fails to get updates.
Also, some signs are so obvious that you won’t doubt that your machine was infected. Usually, ransomware would announce itself quickly. You will get a message with directions where to send money to regain access to your encrypted files or locked machine (don’t do that though!)
How Users Get Malware?
No one would install malware intentionally (unless they are bored and craving for adventures). It can appear on your device because of accidental actions – for example, clicking on a hazardous link. Usually, such links arrive via untrusted websites or emails. Unfortunately, one in every 131 emails comes with a virus inside.
Another way which hackers use for their malware attacks is P2P sharing channels. Most of the time users download files which have traveled a long way from one computer to another. Many of those computers may be already infected. Plus, hackers throw malicious files into such networks and mask them to look familiar. Once you download the file, you are in trouble.
Finally, your machine is more likely to get infected if it has no sufficient malware protection. Note that a one-time installation is not enough. The software should be continuously updated to perform effectively. The best idea is to turn automatic updates on and let the software’s producer take care of your security.
Common Types of Malware
Malicious programs are extremely different. Some of them are easier to deal with, and some may cause a real disaster. Below is the list of most common forms of malware traveling through the Internet.
Virus – a computer code capable of replicating itself. To activate a virus, you need to make specific actions, for example, open an email attachment or follow a particular link. Once activated, the virus starts infecting other files on your machine.
Worm – malware which can also copy itself. But it doesn’t need any actions from you. All it needs is to find a weak spot on your software to start its destructive activity.
Trojan – looking like a legitimate program, Trojans convince users to execute them on their devices. Later, they would hide deep in your OS and do the unlawful things they were created for, for instance, to corrupt your data.
Scareware – a worrisome message on your desktop saying that your machine is infected and you need to buy antivirus or provide banking information is an excellent example of scareware.
Adware a kind of malware that is hunting on your data to send you adds or re-direct to promotional websites later.
Spyware is evident from the name of this type that it spies on computers’ users. The goals behind are different, but the outcomes are always unpleasant.
Ransomware is one of the most widespread kinds of malware used by hackers for several years at a row. Once ransomware infects your device, it will gradually encrypt your files or lock the entire machine. At some point, you will get a message with instructions on how to regain access to them (by transferring money to a hacker, of course).
Fileless malware is one of the most sophisticated types of harmful programs which hackers use for their malware attacks. Fileless malware would not download code on your machine and would mask itself as a trusted app or tool while doing its dirty job. Only the best antivirus is capable of detecting it.
How to Protect Your Devices from Malware?
Hackers spend days and nights creating new variations of malware and digging for new ways to spread it. The good news is that many IT specialists live on a good side. They are observing the situation to provide the needed malware protection to Internet users. So, do you want to know how to prevent malware?
The first thing you should do is install good security software. Don’t forget to run scans from time to time. The best idea is to set the antivirus to automatic scanning and let it take care of the checks. Also, make sure the software is updated regularly updates to work more effectively.
And still, even if you have a reliable software, you should not behave thoughtlessly. Never click on suspicious links or open attachments coming with emails from unknown senders.
Finally, always use strong passwords and consider getting a VPN for additional protection. The more security measures you take, the better your chances to stay protected.
Cybersecurity is one of the most challenging issues the modern world faces every single day. New types of malware are continuously hunting users around the globe. Progressive countries spend millions of dollars on protection. But it is essential that every user gets proactive with their cybersecurity. In the final run, each one of us is responsible for how well we are protected.