Unfortunately, the internet isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are plenty of people who have decided to use it for nefarious means instead. Using malware, hackers invade user privacy, ruin online experiences, and put people and businesses at risk. If you’re curious about what malware actually is, keep reading.
What is Malware?
Malware is short for malicious software, an encompassing term for the various software designed to infiltrate networks and devices that it should not have access to and cause damage to data or systems.
According to the 2020 Cyber Threat Report by Deep Instinct, malware attacks increased by 358% overall in 2020. As companies accelerated the digital transformation due to the pandemic, double extortion tactics through ransomware also increased by 435%.
In general, malware consists of code created by developers with malicious intent. Using this intrusive software, cyberattackers perform a variety of actions such as stealing, encrypting, or accessing sensitive data.
Malware can also be used to hijack core computing functions, which leads infected computers to behave abnormally. For example, malware can be used to make computers act like remote devices or mine cryptocurrency. Not only does this put your device at risk for fraudulent activities, but it also inhibits your computer from functioning optimally.
Depending on the type of malware, different users will experience different effects. However, all types of malware should be avoided at all costs. When it comes to malware, a small vulnerability can become a threatening one in a snap.
For this reason, it is always good to know what you are up against and how to protect yourself from hackers who want to take advantage of you. So, what are the different types and malware, and what can you do to avoid them?
Spyware is a form of malware that acts as a method of surveillance that is designed to track information such as browsing habits and activities. Spyware works to harvest information that can help give it access to your financial accounts, such as passwords or verifying documents like IDs or passports.
According to the Economic Times, one of the most popular uses of spyware are keyloggers. Keyloggers record keystrokes that record passwords, credit card details, and so on. Aside from being used as malware, businesses also install spyware on company devices to track employee activity to avoid corporate espionage or theft.
Similar to spyware, adware also gathers data on you without your consent. However, its goal is not purely to access personally identifiable information. Used to redirect you to advertising sites, adware manipulates your browser settings to allow notifications or change your search settings.
Bear in mind that not all adware is malware. Many modern digital marketing tactics rely on similar tracking technology to be able to serve you relevant ads across different platforms. However, the primary difference is the consent you give to be tracked and amount of data that these companies have access to.
Among the different types of malware, ransomware is often the most popular because of how dangerous it is. Ransomware holds captive important data through encryption and access restriction in exchange for payment. Often, ransomware is a concern for large companies with access to millions of customer information such as addresses and credit card details.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, a new ransomware attack occurs every 11 seconds. In fact, it’s even believed that ransomware attacks will cost the world up to $10.5 Trillion by 2025. Included in these projections are the cost of the destruction of data, intellectual property theft, and loss of productivity.
How to Keep Your Device Free of Malware
To keep malware off your devices, you need to cover all the possible bases wherein it could penetrate your computer. To achieve this, you must establish and follow good internet safety practices.
Good internet safety practices include but are not limited to avoiding opening email attachments from questionable sources, logging into unsafe Wi-Fi networks, and downloading pirated software. In fact, even if a software is legitimate, it is still good practice to disable any permissions to access your device more than what is necessary for it to work.
When it comes to browsing, avoid clicking dodgy links, giving permission to websites to track you, and downloading old plug-ins. Many hackers make use of vulnerabilities from apps, plug-ins, and websites that are not updated to gain access to your computer.
Aside from this, you should also be careful of the hardware that has come into contact with other computers. When using a USB on devices you don’t own, make sure to scan for malware before attempting to use it on your device.
Protect Yourself from Malware Today
When it comes to protecting your Mac from malware, it is a full-time job. Besides investing in software to help scan your device for malware regularly, you should never let your guard down when it comes to browsing the internet, downloading files, or installing software.
Remember, you are only as safe as your weakest security practice. By monitoring your devices and doing regular checks for malware, you can keep yourself and your data safe from cyberattacks of any form.