What is Malware and how to prevent it

What is Malware and how to prevent it

With security officials recently warning against people using public phone chargers to prevent being juice jacked or infected with malware, we explore what malware is and how to prevent it.

What is Malware?

The term malware is a portmanteau – a contraction of two words, malicious and software. Any piece of software created to damage devices, steal data or negatively impact users, is a malware. Hackers are usually the culprits creating malware and they do this for a number of reasons, including to make money, test security or as a protest tool or weapon of war between governments.

What does Malware do?

As noted before, Malware is bad news. Its intent is to infect your website and damage or destroy devices and computer systems without the owner or user knowing. To sum up what malware does, it finds a weakness in a computer of website security system and exploits that.

Types of Malware

There are various types of malware. Here’s a list of the six main malware and how they work.

Trojans – Trojans are great chameleons. They either disguise themselves as real and genuine software or hide within legit software that has been compromised. Once implanted, they inconspicuously work to open up your security to let other malware in.

Virus – A virus, in whichever world it exists is never good. With viruses, it’s always a domino effect. They are like parasites that attach to your clean files and then infect your other clean files. You can sometimes identify viruses because they tend to show up as executable or (.exe.) files.

Spyware – Spyware does exactly what it says. It’s a malware created to spy on you. It acts like a stalker, sitting in the background and documenting what you do online. In this process, spyware registers your personal information such as passwords, credit card and bank data. It also tracks your surfing habits.

Ransomware – Ransomware act in the same way some criminals do. It infiltrates your computer and your files and then threatens you. Ransomware hold your data at ‘ransom’ and demand you pay or have your information deleted or your system crashed.

Adware - Unlike, most other malware, adware is not always malicious. At least, that’s not always its intent. But aggressive advertising software can weaken your security which paves the way for other malware to get into your system and cause major damage.

Botnet- A botnet is a network of infected computers that are being controlled by an attacker, to perform a particular task.

How to prevent Malware

Malware is always bad news, especially because they sneak up on you and within seconds, cause severe damage.  The great news is that it can be prevented. Here are six ways to prevent Malware:

1. Get an ad-blocker!

Let’s start with this. Hackers often use malvertising - pop-up ads and virus plagued banners to get into your system. The sad part about that is that you can’t always tell which ads are safe and which ones are not. That’s where a reliable ad-blocker becomes useful, because it blocks them all. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

2. Install anti-malware software

In addition to using an ad blocker, a cutting-edge anti-virus program is useful. It will act as a watchdog for your system and protect you against security risks, including malware. Not all anti-virus software is created equal, so you need to make sure you get one that’s reputable and efficient.

Note though, that anti-virus software will not detect every malware that exist. It will however, defend you against popular malware attacks. And the truth is that it’s better to have a little protection than to have none.

3. Install security updates and patches

Ensure that you install updates and security patches as soon as they become available. Updates are created to tackle security issues that were missed or that came about after an older version was released.

This means, it’s imperative that you install updates, if you want to ensure your system is protected against malware and other security issues. If you can’t remember to manually install updates, turning on automatic software updates is an option.

4. Turn on your firewall

A firewall is the first line of defense in network security. It uses a defined set of security rules to monitor network traffic and decide what’s allowed into your computer system or not.

This is a major part of securing yourself against malware attacks and so you’ll want to ensure firewall is not only turned on at all times, but that is also correctly designed.

5. Check your download sources properly

Malware is like germs. It’s everywhere! It can be on official and non-official sites, just hanging out waiting on its next victim. So before installing anything new on your computer or device, including free or trial versions of software, make sure you check and double-check.  Is the provider genuine, trustworthy, and reputable?

If you can’t answer this question definitely, you may want to opt to not download from that source. The rule of thumb is to only install or run software and plugins that come from trusted sources.

6. Avoid suspicious websites

Knock-off websites are one of the ways malware attackers use to infect your system, so you will want to pay keen attention to the websites you are visiting. Even is the site is a popular one, which is the ones most often duplicated, you still have to exercise caution. And if you see anything out of the norm, maybe the URL looks a little off or some of the website features look different, don’t enter the site. But if you do, do not enter any sensitive information.

One sure way to know if a site is authentic is to check the URL carefully to see if it uses HTTPS. If it uses it, it means the site has SSL certificate and you are safe to use it.

Other simple ways to prevent malware include:

  • Restoration Backup
  • Avoid suspicious emails and links
  • Use strong and unique passwords
  • Limit the number of people who have access to your devices

Summary

Malware is everywhere and can affect anyone, at any time. However, there are quick and easy ways you can protect yourself against malware attacks.

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