Malware. We hear about it all the time: it can cost businesses hundreds of thousands, and yet there seems to be a lack of understanding of what this malicious software is and what it can do.
What are the different types of malware and how do we protect against it? Without good comprehension of this extremely pervasive problem-causer, chances are your business will be even more at risk.
Let’s start off with the basics. What is malware?
Malware is short for malicious software which covers everything from viruses, adware, spyware, and fake security software. Although it was first developed to gain access to a person’s computer or network through a physical device such as a flash drive, today cyber attackers use phishing emails.
Because phishing emails employ social engineering to trick users into either accidentally opening or downloading malicious files or programs, malware often goes undetected. It can also be difficult to remove and, of most importantly, threatens the privacy and security of your computer and the information stored there.
What are the different types of malware?
There is an extensive amount of malicious software out there, but here are the top five major threats:
- Viruses are the most commonly known form of malware. These are a form of code or software that can copy itself onto a computer’s hard drive and files. Once copied, viruses create a wide variety of mischief; from hijacking the device to deleting all the data.
- Spyware is exactly what it sounds like; a software that spies on you, monitoring and sharing your personal information. And it doesn’t just look at the data stored on the device; spyware also accesses messages, browser history, information on applications and much more.
- Adware describes those annoying online pop-up advertisements. It often seems like the only way to avoid them is to click through. Ironically, clicking through serves as a revenue source for cybercriminals.
- Computer Worms exploit vulnerabilities in a user’s operating system or software and then spreads throughout networks and applications without any additional human interaction.
- Ransomware is another form of malware we often hear about. Usually delivered via an attachment or link in a phishing email, if a user clicks on either, it will encrypt and lock down their systems until the ransom is paid.
- Tragedy-Related Scams capitalize on recent tragic events. Also delivered via email, these messages often ask for charitable donations and lead users to malware-infected websites.
Thankfully, some of the most basic cybersecurity practices will keep most of these types of malware from affecting your day-to-day. Make sure your software and operating systems are up to date and patched appropriately. Hardware patches are one of the biggest things people miss and can lead to serious problems. For example, not patching a flaw could lead to an attacker gaining access to sensitive information on the affected system. If your organization hasn’t already, installing cybersecurity solutions will be key to keeping malware at bay.
No matter how many preventative programs you or your organization install, social engineering schemes will always be at work and looking for new ways to trick people. That’s why we suggest users become more adept and wary of emails. Pay attention to the email addresses of incoming messages and take notice of any grammatical errors or scare tactics that might have been used. If you are suspicious, don’t open any attachments and certainly don’t click embedded links. (To learn more about phishing, please visit our blog here)
It’s a cliché we’ve all heard before, but it’s true; knowledge is power. The more you know about malware, the easier it will be to protect against it.