Malware. It’s a term we hear a lot about these days. A simple Google search will turn up lots of scary statistics. For example, cybersecurity experts detect 350,000 new pieces of malware each day. More than 7 billion malware attacks were reported in 2019. And there are about 980 million malware programs out there waiting to attack. In just the last week alone, a leading cybersecurity firm and a growing number of government agencies were compromised by malware inserted into SolarWinds IT network management software.
At some point, you might have asked yourself this question. If governments and cybersecurity experts can’t protect themselves, how could a humble user like myself ever hope to keep my home computer, laptop, or mobile device safe? With that much malware floating around the internet, how could I ever hope to navigate through it without getting infected? Before we answer, let’s get to know the enemy better by taking a look at just what malware is and how it can affect you.
Trojans and Rootkits and Worms, Oh My
Malware is short for malicious software. It describes any piece of software developed by cybercriminals in order to gain unauthorized access to personal information or to cause intentional damage to computers or computer networks. If you’re interested in the evolution of malware, check out the Malware Museum at the Internet Archive. You can see how they work without risking the health of your computer.
Malware is used for a number of different criminal purposes. Malware can trick people into giving up personal information that can then be used for identity theft. It can steal banking login credentials or credit card information. Malware can link multiple computers across a network and use them for coordinated denial of service or botnet attacks. It is also frequently used to infect computers and use them to mine cryptocurrency.
Here are just a few of the most common types of malware.
- Ransomware: it infects your computer or network, disables access to your data generally by encrypting it, then demands a ransom in exchange for the encryption key that restores access. Often, ransomware attacks also steal data before encrypting it. Attackers then demand a second payment in return for not leaking the stolen data. Ryuk is a common example of ransomware. It’s been used to target corporations, government offices, healthcare providers, and educational institutions. It’s also responsible for about a third of all recent ransomware attacks.
- Trojan Horse: this kind of malware, like its counterpart in Greek epic poetry, disguises itself as legitimate software so users will download it. Once installed, it allows cyber-criminals to seize control of your computer or modify your data. Banking trojans like Emotet gather sensitive login credentials for financial and other institutions. Trojans can also create back doors through which cyber-criminals upload other malware to an infected system.
- Worms: as the name suggests, computer worms embed themselves in a computer or network, make copies of themselves, and then distribute the copies through a computer network without any human interaction. They can be used to create back-door access to hackers, modify or delete data, or simply to use up system resources or bandwidth. The Stuxnet worm is probably the most notorious example. It was the first known virus that could cripple hardware.
- Spyware/Adware: this kind of malware infiltrates your computer, monitors your internet usage, gathers personal information, and then sends it to advertisers or other external entities. Spyware can also aid criminals in identity theft or in capturing your credit card information or other sensitive login credentials. Among the most common forms are CoolWebSearch, which targets web browsers, and 180search Assistant, an adware program that delivers targeted pop-up ads based on search engine results.
So How Do You Avoid Malware Infection?
Thanks for sticking with us this far. Malware infections can be nasty, dangerous and expensive. Malware exists on seemingly harmless websites. It lurks in email links that often look legitimate. And it resides in downloadable software that looks legitimate enough to fool even the most cautious internet user. But infection is not inevitable. Here are some simple rules to follow.
Antivirus software: Use it! Malware is a wily adversary, but good antivirus protection can eliminate a great many threats. SecureData’s DriveSecurity® (by ClevX) powered by ESET requires no host installation. It runs on your USB devices and automatically scans for and removes malware. It can even detect threats when you’re not on the internet. All SecureData’s SecureDrive® line of external storage devices come with one year of free DriveSecurity® antivirus protection.
Regular Backups: Do it! When good digital hygiene just isn’t enough, at least you’ll have the data necessary to recover from an infection. This point can’t be stressed enough. Your data is important. Treat it that way. SecureData’s BackupDrive is software-encrypted and comes with one year of free DriveSecurity® antivirus protection and one year of USBtoCloud® Backup service. Just plug and play, and your files are automatically saved to the cloud storage service of your choosing.
Links and Email Attachments: Think before you click! Some estimates say that 92 percent of all malware is delivered by email. We’ve all seen those official-looking emails offering vital health information or asking to verify account details. Close scrutiny often reveals suspiciously poor grammar or a url that doesn’t go where it is supposed to go. Delete any suspicious emails. If you’re unsure, contact the organization in the email to verify that the communication was legitimate.
Even the most careful computer user might find themselves at the mercy of malware. People get sick even when they exercise and eat right. So do computers. If you experience data loss or your device becomes inoperable as a result of malware, Secure Data Recovery Services can help. Our team of expert data recovery engineers has a 96 percent verified success rate and has a full array of proprietary and purpose-built utilities to tackle even the most complicated data recovery scenarios.
And Secure Data Recovery Services gives each and every client a “no data, no recovery fee” guarantee. Call us now at 1-800-388-1266 for more information about our services or to open a data recovery case.