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Understanding Malware

The term malware is a contraction of malicious software. Malware is any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server , client, or computer network. Put simply, malware is any piece of software that was written with the intent of damaging devices, stealing data, and generally causing a mess. Viruses, Trojans, spyware, and ransomware are among the different kinds of malware.

Malware is often created by teams of hackers: usually, they’re just looking to make money, either by spreading the malware themselves or selling it to the highest bidder on the Dark Web. However, there can be other reasons for creating malware too — it can be used as a tool for protest, a way to test security, or even as weapons of war between governments. But no matter why or how malware comes to be, it’s always bad news when it winds up on your PC.

What does malware do?

Malware is a very broad category, and what malware does or how malware works changes from file to file. The following is a list of common types of malware, but it’s hardly exhaustive:

  • Virus: Like their biological namesakes, viruses attach themselves to clean files and infect other clean files. They can spread uncontrollably, damaging a system’s core functionality and deleting or corrupting files. They usually appear as an executable file (.exe).
  • Trojans: This kind of malware disguises itself as legitimate software, or is hidden in legitimate software that has been tampered with. It tends to act discreetly and create backdoors in your security to let other malware in.
  • Spyware: Spyware is malware designed to spy on you. It hides in the background and takes notes on what you do online, including your passwords, credit card numbers, surfing habits, and more.
  • Worms: Worms infect entire networks of devices, either local or across the internet, by using network interfaces. It uses each consecutively infected machine to infect others.
  • Ransomware: This kind of malware typically locks down your computer and your files, and threatens to erase everything unless you pay a ransom.
  • Adware: Though not always malicious in nature, aggressive advertising software can undermine your security just to serve you ads — which can give other malware an easy way in.
  • Botnets: Botnets are networks of infected computers that are made to work together under the control of an attacker.

How to protect against malware

When it comes to malware, prevention is better than a cure.  The following are ways to protect yourself from malware:

Don’t trust strangers online :

“Social engineering”, which can include strange emails, abrupt alerts, fake profiles, and curiosity-tickling offers, are the #1 method of delivering malware. If you don’t know exactly what it is, don’t click on it.

Double-check your downloads

 From pirating sites to official storefronts, malware is often lurking just around the corner. So before downloading, always double-check that the provider is trustworthy by carefully reading reviews and comments.

Get an ad-blocker :

Malvertising – where hackers use infected banners or pop-up ads to infect your device – is on the rise. You can’t know which ads are bad: so it’s safer to just block them all with a reliable ad-blocker.

Careful where you browse:

Malware can be found anywhere, but it’s most common in websites with poor backend security, like small, local websites. If you stick to large, reputable sites, you severely reduce your risk of encountering malware.

Anti-Malware software :

The only surefire way to detect all malware before it infects your PC, Mac, or mobile is to install anti-malware software, which will come packaged with detection tools and scans that can catch malware currently on your device, as well as block malware trying to infect it.

In conclusion, the best protection from malware — whether ransomware, bots, browser hijackers, or other malicious software — continues to being very cautious and cyber aware as you go into cyberspace as knowledge is power.  We hope you’ve been more empowered today to detect malware and also protect yourself against it. As you delve into cyberspace, also be Cyber secure!

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