Not a day goes by without some warning about new threats involving cybercriminals wanting to inject malicious code or some other super sinister malware into our computers. Sadly, it’s something they succeed in doing all too often.
You might be wondering whether your antivirus program is really up to keeping threats at bay and whether you can download malware tests from Google. If you are, read on to learn how you can run your own malware tests to check how effective your network and computer protection is.
While it sounds like the last thing you should be doing, don’t worry — with the tried-and-tested security solution Avira Free Security you’ve already got a multi-feature tool to hand that’s always learning and automatically adapting to the latest cyberthreats, enabling you to improve your device security.
What exactly is malware?
Malware, or malicious software to give it its full name, is an umbrella term for programs and apps that are designed with the sole intention to cause significant damage to a computer, network, or other electronic device.
There are many different types of malware, and the damage this malicious software can cause is just as wide ranging. Such malware can be designed to steal data, change system settings, severely impair your computer’s performance, or gain access to confidential information.
What types of malware are there?
Malware describes a wide range of cyberthreats, a few of which you’ve probably heard about before — or may have even been affected by yourself.
- A virus is self-propagating malware that injects itself into other computer programs, a boot sector, or your computer’s RAM and in doing so reproduces itself.
- Computer worms, unlike viruses, can replicate themselves once executed.
- Trojans often end up on your computer disguised as a useful application. They claim to do one thing, but actually do something else in the background that’s highly malicious — all without our knowledge.
- Stalkerware, also known as spyware is a rather dangerous digital spying tool that is often used by (domestic) abusers to spy on and control their victims.
- Scareware is intended to scare you into doing something. It’s considered an automated form of social engineering.
- Ransomware allows cybercriminals to gain access to your computer and prevent you from using your data or even the entire computer system. You’ll then only be able to regain control of your device once you’ve paid the blackmailers what they want.
- Adware shows you unwanted ads or installs additional malware that essentially bombards you with advertising. You can stop this malware variant in its tracks on your PC and/or Mac with a browser safety add on, like Avira Browser Safety.
What are malware tests?
Malware testing, also known as malware analysis, involves checking a specific file, software app, computer system, or network for the presence of malware. How exactly does this work? We’ll get to that in a bit.
Why test for malware?
IT managers in public authorities, banks, and other companies regularly perform malware tests. The aim is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of security measures to identify and preventatively address potential attack vectors.
Can I download malware tests?
You can actually download malware test files from some websites and platforms. These test files are specifically designed to help you check how well your antivirus software or other security solutions protect your device from certain types of malware.
However, you should be extremely cautious when handling malware downloads for testing as some of these files may contain genuine malware. That said, at least there are some trustworthy sources you can use. We’ll explain more now.
What should I watch out for when downloading malware test files?
If you still want to go ahead and download a sample malware file yourself for testing, you should:
- Use trusted sources:
Only download malware test files from trusted sources or websites known for their security.
- Check the integrity of the file:
If you download a test file specifically designed for security testing (e.g. EICAR), you can usually be confident that the file is harmless. However, before opening the downloaded file, check it with antivirus software or an online malware analysis platform.
- Use a virtual environment:
If you want to run malware test files, you should do so in an isolated environment so that your main operating system is not compromised.
- Beware of actual malware:
Above all, always be aware that malicious files could also be disguised as test files. Therefore, never download files from malware testing sites where the source is untrustworthy.
Who or what is EICAR?
EICAR stands for the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research. EICAR is an internationally recognized organization dedicated to researching and combating computer viruses and other forms of malware.
EICAR also refers to a downloadable malware test file developed by this organization that can help test anti-malware systems.
How does EICAR work?
The EICAR test file contains a text string. This is a type of code made up of a defined string, which is called the EICAR test virus. If the antivirus software installed on your device is configured correctly, it will recognize this text string as malicious code, even though it has no malicious functions that could harm your computer itself.
Using the EICAR test file allows you to verify the effectiveness of your anti-virus software and ensure that it responds correctly to malware.
To be absolutely clear: This EICAR test file does not pose any actual threat to your devices as it is for testing purposes only.
How can I test for malware?
Malware testing can be done in different ways. Here are some common approaches:
- Signature-based detection:
This method compares the file or software under test with known malware signatures. If a match is found, the file is identified as malicious.
- Behavior-based detection:
This involves monitoring the behavior of the file or software while it is running. Suspicious activities such as modifying system files or running unusual processes can point to malware.
A file or software runs in an isolated environment called a sandbox. This prevents malware from infecting the actual system. The behavior of the malware is observed and analyzed to detect malicious activities.
- Heuristic analysis:
This method is based on algorithms that can detect potentially suspicious characteristics of files or software. This not only looks for known malware signatures but also for suspicious behavior or structures.
However, be aware that a single method is unlikely to be able to detect all types of malware, which is why it is advisable to combine different testing methods.
And for your personal devices, we strongly recommend that you regularly update your anti-malware programs — it’s the only way you can benefit from effective protection against malware.
How do I delete the malware test file from my PC?
Deleting a malware test file from your PC is just like removing any other file. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Exit the file.
Make sure the malware test file is no longer active. If you started the file, also close the corresponding program or process that you wanted to check to stop the file from running.
Step 2: Identify the test file.
Go to where the malware test file is stored on your computer. It should be in the folder where you downloaded or saved it (if necessary, note the location beforehand).
Step 3: Delete the file.
Right-click the test file and select Delete from the context menu. Alternatively, you can select the file and use the Delete key on your keyboard.
Step 4: Empty your recycle bin.
After you delete the malware test file, it may still be in your recycle bin. To get rid of the file for good, open the Recycle Bin and click Empty Recycle Bin or Permanently Delete Files.
Last but not least: We don’t need to remind you that tried-and-tested virus protection is an absolute must-have on all your internet-enabled devices. With the multi-feature tool Avira Free Security, you can optimize your device security — for Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS.