Information Center

Malware: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself

Over the last two decades, the business ecosystem has transformed significantly due to digitalization. Where processes were manual and slow, technology has enhanced efficacy, making things run much smoother.

While the place of technology and its benefits are unquestionable, it also comes with risks. One such risk is malware attacks. According to Statista, there were 5.4 billion detected malware attacks in 2021. And by mid-2022, the number of malware attacks has reached 2.8 billion. 

While it may seem such attacks are only a preserve for the largest corporations, that's not the case. Medium-sized companies, small businesses, and individuals are also affected indiscriminately. 

As such, malware attacks have become a global problem. They can cause serious damage to your device, including corrupting files, stealing data, or even taking over your device completely. In some cases, malware can allow hackers to access your network and other devices connected to it.

Moreover, malware attacks can have far-reaching consequences beyond the technical damage they cause. They can also lead to financial losses and reputational damage.

Therefore, while operating in a digital environment, it's essential to safeguard yourself from such attacks. In this regard, you should first understand what malware is, its impact, and the different types.

In this article, you'll find all the necessary insights about malware and tips on how to protect your company from attacks. 

What Is Malware?

Malware is a type of malicious software that's designed to damage or disable computer systems. It can take many forms, including viruses, worms, trojans, adware, spyware, and ransomware.

Malware is often spread through email attachments, downloads from infected websites or infected removable media such as USB drives into your computer. In some cases, malware can be installed without you even knowing it.

History of Malware

Malware has been around nearly as long as computers themselves. In the early days of computing, viruses were spread mainly by sharing floppy disks or other storage media.

As the internet became more widespread in the 1990s, email became a popular vector for malware. In recent years, malicious software has become increasingly sophisticated, with attackers using social engineering and other techniques to trick users into installing programs that can steal sensitive information or allow remote access to a computer.

Types of Malware

Malware is a blanket term that encompasses different forms of malicious software that can compromise your system. In your efforts to protect your devices from malware, you must learn about the different types.

1.    Virus

Viruses are a type of malware that can cause serious damage to your computer. They are usually spread through email attachments or by downloading infected files from the internet.

Once a virus is on your computer, it can replicate and spread to other computers. Viruses can also delete files, damage software, and render your computer unusable.

2.    Worms

Worms are similar to viruses in that they can spread quickly and cause damage to your computer. However, unlike viruses, worms don't need you to do anything to spread them. Instead, they can automatically copy themselves and spread to other computers on a network.

3.    Trojans

Trojan horses are a type of malware that masquerades as legitimate software. They are often spread through email attachments or by downloading infected files from the internet.

Once installed, trojan horses can give attackers access to your computer, allowing them to steal sensitive information or take over your machine completely. In some cases, trojans can also delete files or damage software.

4.    Adware

Adware is a type of malware that displays unwanted advertising on your computer. It is often installed without you knowing and can be difficult to remove.

Adware can slow down your computer, use your bandwidth, and even lead to data loss. In some cases, the adware can install other malware on your machine.

5.     Spyware

Spyware is malware that collects information about you without your knowledge. It can be installed without your knowledge and is often challenging to get rid of.

Once installed, spyware can track your online activity, steal sensitive information such as login credentials or credit card numbers, and even hijack your web browser. In some cases, spyware can also install other forms of malware on your machine.

6.    Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your files and demands a ransom to decrypt them. It is often spread through email attachments or by downloading infected files from the internet.

Once installed, ransomware can prevent you from accessing your files or computer. In some cases, it can also delete files or damage software. If you are infected with ransomware, you should never pay the ransom, as there is no guarantee that you will get your files back.

7.    Bots

Bots are malware that allows attackers to take control of your computer. They are often spread through email attachments or by downloading infected files from the internet.

Bot malware is a significant security concern that can compromise your device completely. Bots may allow attackers to access your computer, steal sensitive information, or even take it over entirely. BOTS CAN also delete files or damage software in some situations.

8.    Keyloggers

A keylogger is a type of malware that records your keystrokes and sends them to an attacker. It is often installed without you knowing and can be difficult to remove.

Keyloggers can be used to steal sensitive information such as login credentials or credit card numbers. In some cases, hackers also use them to install other forms of malware on your machine.

9.    Rootkits

A rootkit is a type of malware that allows attackers to access your computer at a low level. They are often spread through email attachments or by downloading infected files from the internet.

Once installed, rootkits can allow attackers to take over your machine completely. In some cases, they can also delete files or damage software. Rootkits are very difficult to remove and can often only be removed by reformatting your hard drive.

10.    Malicious Crypto Mining Software

Malicious crypto mining software is malware that uses your computer's resources to mine cryptocurrency without your permission. It is often installed without you knowing and can be difficult to remove.

Crypto mining malware can consume bandwidth and even result in data loss. In some circumstances, it can also install additional types of malware on your system. Malicious crypto mining software is typically not dangerous on its own, but it may indicate that your computer has been targeted with other types of malware.

11.    Exploits

An exploit is a type of malware that takes advantage of a security flaw to gain access to your computer. They are often spread through email attachments or by downloading infected files from the internet.

Once installed, exploits can allow attackers to take over your machine completely. In some cases, they can also delete files or damage software. Unfortunately, exploits are very difficult to remove and can often only be removed by reformatting your hard drive.

How Malware Can Impact You

Malware can have a significant impact on both individuals and businesses alike. For individuals, malware can lead to data loss and identity theft. However, it can also result in financial losses if you are tricked into paying a ransom demand after your files have been encrypted by ransomware.

For businesses, malware attacks can result in the following:

How Can You Tell if You Have Malware?

Considering the impact that malware can have it's essential to keep it off your systems. However, that may not always be possible. Fortunately, you can limit the impact by detecting and responding to malware risks swiftly.

Therefore, it's also important to know the signs that your system has been compromised. These include:

1.    Many Annoying Ads Keep Popping Up on Your Screen

One of the most annoying things about malware is the barrage of pop-up ads it can generate. These ads can be extremely intrusive and hard to get rid of. They can also slow down your computer and make it difficult to work or browse the web.

Your computer may have been infected with malware if you see an increase in pop-up ads. Be sure not to click on any ads, as this will only worsen the problem. Instead, begin taking steps to remove it from your system entirely.

2.    Your Computer Slows Down Drastically

Malware can also cause your computer to slow down significantly. This is because malware uses up your computer's resources to run. So if you notice that your computer has been running slowly lately, scanning for malware is a good idea.

3.    You See Unexpected Toolbars or Programs Installed

You likely have malware if you see new toolbars or programs installed on your computer that you didn't put there. Malware can install itself on your machine without you knowing and often comes bundled with other software.

Be sure only to download software from trusted sources to avoid accidentally installing malware.

4.    You Get Redirected When You Try to Browse the Web

If you find that you're constantly being redirected to different websites when you try to browse the web, your computer may be infected with malware. Malware can change your browser's settings and hijack your internet searches. This can make it difficult to find the information you're looking for and even expose you to dangerous websites.

5.    You Receive Strange Emails or Messages

It's a good idea to be cautious if you start getting odd communications from individuals you don't know. These might be phishing attempts by cybercriminals attempting to entice you into disclosing personal information or installing malware on your computer.

Never open attachments or click on links in emails or messages unless you are sure they are safe. If you're unsure, contact the person who sent the email or message to verify that it's legitimate.

6.    You Notice Unusual Activity on Your Accounts

Cybercriminals may have breached your online accounts if you see unusual activity. For example, they may use your account to send spam emails or messages or commit fraud.

If you notice any unusual activity on your accounts, change your passwords immediately and contact the customer service team for the relevant account. Be sure to update your security settings and enable two-factor authentication if available.

7.    Mysterious Loss of Disc Space

Should you suddenly notice that your hard drive has less storage space than it used to, it's possible that malware is to blame. Malware can secretly install itself on your computer and use valuable disc space.

To check for malware, open your hard drive and look for any files or folders you don't recognize. If you see anything suspicious, delete it immediately.

8.    System Crashes or Freezes

If your computer starts crashing or freezing frequently, it's a good indication that something is wrong. Malware can cause your system to crash by corrupting important files or overloading your resources.

If your computer has been crashing or freezing, run a malware scan to see if any malicious software is in your system.

9.    Unexplained Increase in Internet Activity from your System

If you see a sudden increase in internet activity from your system, malware may be responsible. Malware can use your internet connection to send data back to the cyber criminals who installed it or to other computers on the internet.

To check for malware, open your task manager and look at the list of running processes. If you see anything suspicious, research it online or contact a trusted IT professional for help.

10. You Suspect Someone Has Accessed Your Computer Remotely

If you suspect that someone has accessed your computer remotely, it's possible that they installed malware on your system without your knowledge. Malware can give cybercriminals access to files and data on your computer and the ability to control your system remotely.

If you suspect your computer has been compromised, change all your passwords immediately and run a malware scan to check for any malicious software. You should also contact a trusted IT professional for help.

11. Loss of Access to Files or Entire Computer

In some cases, malware can encrypt your files or completely lock you out of your computer. This is known as ransomware. If this happens, the cyber criminals who installed the malware will usually demand a ransom payment to restore access to your files or system.

If you are infected with ransomware, do not pay the ransom. There is no guarantee that you will get your data back even if you do pay, and you will be supporting the criminals' illegal activity. Instead, try to restore your files from a backup if possible. If you don't have a backup, contact a trusted IT professional for help.

Malware can be incredibly destructive and costly, so it's essential to protect yourself from infection.

How Can Your System Get Malware?

Malware can find its way onto your system in several ways. It can come from clicking on malicious links, downloading infected files, or opening email attachments from unknown senders. Sometimes, it can also be installed without you knowing by drive-by downloads or exploits.

Malware can also spread through social engineering attacks. This is where attackers trick you into doing something that will allow them to install malware on your system. For example, they may pose as a legitimate company and send you an email with an attachment that appears safe but is actually malware.

Preventing Malware Attacks

The best way to protect yourself from malware is to prevent such attacks in the first place. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  • Keep your operating system and software up to date- Attackers often target outdated software with known vulnerabilities. By keeping your system up to date, you can patch these vulnerabilities and make it harder for attackers to exploit them.
  • Using a reputable anti-malware program-This will help to detect and remove any malware that manages to find its way onto your system. Be sure to keep the program up to date so that it can effectively protect against the latest threats.
  • Don't click on links or open attachments from unknown senders- If you receive an email or message from someone you don't know, exercise caution before clicking on any links or opening any attachments. These could be malicious and lead to malware being installed on your system.
  • Be wary of social engineering attacks- Don't let attackers trick you into doing something that will allow them to install malware on your system. Likewise, be suspicious of unsolicited emails and messages, even if they appear to be from a legitimate source.

Malware can seriously threaten your personal and financial security, so it's important to take steps to protect yourself. By following the tips above, you can help to keep yourself safe from such attacks.

Ransomware Protection

One of the biggest malware threats you face is ransomware. Data suggests that 37% of organizations across the globe have faced a ransomware attack in 2021. Moreover, these attacks can have a devastating effect on organizations.

At Veritas, we offer a host of malware protection, including ransomware solutions. In addition, we have a state-of-the-art malware solution designed by cybersecurity experts. This solution offers comprehensive protection against all types of malware, including ransomware.

Malware is a serious problem, but it can be effectively mitigated with the right tools and precautions. Our Ransomware protection solutions help protect your data from ransomware attacks and allow you to recover any data that may be lost or encrypted quickly.

However, we understand that needs vary from one organization to the next. That's why we do not offer blanket solutions. Instead, our experts will customize ransomware protection solutions that will meet your unique needs.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you keep your organization safe from malware threats.

 

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