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What is Malware – And how can you stay safe?

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The goal of this article is to provide you with an understanding of what exactly malicious software is, describe three types of malicious software and also give a few tips on what you can do to prevent a malware infection.

Malware or malicious software is bad news.

This is software that has been designed to harm computer systems. The type of harm all depends on the kind of malware that you have been infected with but either way it is not good. The term malware is used to describe malicious software collectively.

This Includes:

  • Spyware. 
  • Viruses.
  • Trojans. 
  • Ransomware. 
  • Adware. 
  • Botnets. 
  • Worms.

I think I have covered the majority of types of malicious software on that list!

Below I have chosen three types of malware to give you an idea of what it is and what it can do.

Virus Software

A computer virus is still the most commonly known type of malicious software and is very destructive once it gets into your system.

Just like a biological virus, it spreads quickly. Computer viruses attach themselves to as many clean files as possible and spread throughout your system with great speed.

The virus can end up leaving your computer completely unusable with corrupt and damaged files. This malware can delete your data files, use your computer to send spam messages and significantly decrease performance.

Ransomware

Sometimes also referred to as Scareware. Has seen a lot of media coverage recently due to the WannaCry attack which crippled systems across Europe, in particular, the British NHS system.

There are different types of Ransomware, but both have the same goal, to hold you to ransom.

The first form of Ransomware will lock a user out of their system unless they pay a fee to get access back. The files themselves are not encrypted, but it still does its best to stop you from accessing applications and data until the software is removed.

The second type will encrypt those files like WannCry for example. An encryption algorithm is used to scramble the contents of your files making them completely unreadable.

One may have the opportunity to get a decryption key if they pay the demanded fee to the attacker. However, this is a risk as the key may still not be provided once the ransom is paid.

Spyware

This does exactly what it sounds like it might do, spy on you!

The first form of spyware was in a way relativity harmless like for marketing and licensing. A software designer might program in some code that would allow them to gather some statistics on when you used their program, the time you used it and how long for. We have come a long way from this, and now spyware is used to secretly record what you’re doing on your computer.

This malware will collect your personal details and pass them onto third parties without you having any idea it is happening. Passwords, credit card information, and online web activity hopefully you’re getting the general jest of it. I would just like to add in at the end that not all spyware is intended to harm. Computers provided by organisations to their staff sometimes have software preloaded with the intention of protecting the business interests, these staff should, of course, be made acutely aware that the software is installed before use.

So now we know what malware is.

We have looked at three different types of malware and how it can affect our computers but what steps can we take to stay safe?

Here are a few short steps to help keep your computer malware-free.

Five steps to help prevent malware.

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  1. Keep your Operating System (OS) up to date by setting up automatic updates. Attackers love lazy PC users so don’t become one. Run updates regularly.
  2. Install a good firewall and anti-virus program. We recommend AVG but there are plenty of excellent security software providers around so pick one, carry out regular scans and keep it updated.
  3. Think smart: Use strong passwords and change regularly. Don’t click on email attachments without first knowing the sender and then carrying out a virus scan. Use the https protocol when browsing the internet to make sure your connection is secure. Don’t put more information than you have too on social media platforms and online message boards.
  4. Be careful when using open WI-FI Spots. If you use lots of free Wi-Fi in cafes, airports or even at your local shopping outlet consider the dangers of malicious users that may also be connected. Consider using a VPN.
  5. Backup. This is not a preventative measure I know, but when all else fails to have regular backups could prove crucial.

To Conclude

We hope that you have found this article informative and now have an understanding of what malware is, the types of malware that are out there, what malware can do and some simple yet essential steps that can help you avoid a malicious software infection.


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