Malware, or malicious software, is any type of software deliberately created to assist in a cybercrime, like data theft or device corruption. Malware attacks are on the rise, suggesting we’re more vulnerable than ever to the serious repercussions of this dangerous software.
A world with malware is tricky to navigate, and we all have questions.
What is malware?
What can it do?
What is the best free malware protection?
Here are the answers to your top malware questions.
What are the most common types of malware?
The most common types of malware include:
- Trojan Horse
Not all malware is created equal. Delivery methods and their associated damages vary by type. For example, viruses can be secretly installed on a device when its user opens or runs a host file. The virus then creates and installs copies of itself and infiltrates as many files on a computer as it can.
Worms can also self-replicate but enter networks through security vulnerabilities. Ransomware comes disguised as a download or link. Once it’s installed on a device, it holds files or the device itself at ransom. Hackers ask victims to pay a recovery fee, though they rarely hold up their end of the deal if payment is received.
The one characteristic all types of malware have in common is that they’re designed to attack any device they can infiltrate and do as much damage as possible, making them all serious threats to online security.
How does malware infect a computer?
Because every type of malware has a unique entry tactic, understanding all potential points of entry is one of the first defensive steps you should take. Malware developers know that the more inconspicuous their software is, the more successful they’ll be in their attacks.
Use extreme caution when downloading any files onto your device, including video, picture, and text files. This is especially true when the file in question comes from an unknown source, but even someone you trust can accidentally send an infected file.
Removable drives can also be sources of malware. Use caution when signing onto new networks as well, as a compromised network will attack new devices.
What are signs of an infected device?
If malware infiltrates a device without being detected, it will do its best to remain hidden until it’s accomplished its goal. This means that sometimes, symptoms of an infected device occur after the damage is done. But being aware of the following symptoms can help shorten the length of a malware attack.
- Device begins to slow down.
- Device begins to randomly crash.
- More pop-ups and ads are being displayed.
- New software or apps appear.
- Browser homepage or other settings change.
If you suspect your device is infected, it’s always better to investigate and find no malware than to ignore suspicions and face the consequences of an attack later down the line.
How common is malware?
While we wish we could report that malware attacks are decreasing, the opposite is true. Take a look at the number of malware attacks occurring over the last five years reported by AV-Test.
- 2015 — 470.01 million
- 2016 — 597.49 million
- 2017 — 719.15 million
- 2018 — 856.62 million
- 2019 — 975.79 million (projected)
Based on these statistics, it’s safe to say that malware attacks are common. With new malware programs being released every seven seconds, we can only assume attacks will continue to increase.
How easy is it to spot malware?
A common mistake we come across is users believing malware is always obvious to spot. While some attacks, like emails from suspicious sources asking you to download a file or click on a link to claim a prize, are most likely malware attacks, some attacks can seem like routine business.
For example, more hackers are learning how to imitate household brands, like Google and Amazon. By copying a company’s logo, imitating the tone of their content, and creating email addresses that look official at first glance, they’re able to fool victims into downloading or clicking an infected file or link.
Another way malware is becoming harder to spot is through documents. Do you routinely open text documents from coworkers? Some types of malware attach to documents and hide. As they’re sent and opened, the malware spreads without raising any red flags.
So no, malware is not always easy to spot. While not every download, link, or online action will result in a malware attack, never assume it won’t.
Is my phone safe from malware?
Malware is typically thought of as a PC or laptop issue. But because smartphones can download files, log onto networks, and have security vulnerabilities, today’s phones are just as attractive to hackers as other devices.
Use caution when opening texts from unknown numbers, avoid clicking on suspicious links, and only perform downloads on secure networks.
Why would a hacker want to attack me with malware?
We know the dangers of cybercrimes when it comes to businesses. We hear about data leaks, financial losses, and irreversible damage to brands and reputations. When hackers can take down corporations, why would they want to waste their time hacking into a family computer?
There are several reasons, the first being your defense budget. Chances are, you’re spending less time and money on cyber security than a business. While you may not have as much sensitive data, there’s still personal information being stored on your device that can be used to compromise your privacy, finances, and safety. If a hacker can find a way to profit from your information, they’ll surely attempt an attack.
How can I protect myself against malware?
There are several defensive actions you can take against malware. First, keep your software up to date. Don’t click on suspicious links or download files that you don’t trust. Back up your computer on a regular basis and use strong and unique passwords for every online account you have.
The best way to protect yourself from malware is to combine smart online practices with today’s security technology. Avira offers the best free protection against hackers and malware attacks. It includes:
- Password Manager — Generates and stores unique passwords
- Software Updater — Updates drivers and software while optimizing performance
- Antivirus — Blocks spyware, ransomware, adware, and more
- Home Guard — Identifies connected devices and scans for vulnerabilities
Together, these services provide a strong defense against malware. While Home Guard keeps your network secure and the Software Updater makes sure your programs and apps aren’t vulnerable and out of date, the Antivirus feature is the most important when it comes to malware attacks.
Designed for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, Antivirus protects against multiple types of malware, including Trojan Horses, ransomware, adware, and viruses. It also includes a real-time scanner that works around the clock to keep you, your data, your device, and your information safe.
Malware is a serious threat that shouldn’t be ignored. Take the proper security steps today so you can enjoy your time online and thwart would-be hackers from infecting your devices.