What is Malware?
The word malware is short for malicious software.
Malware is any software that was intentionally designed to damage, disrupt or gain unauthorized access to any device and inflict harm to data and people in different ways. It is a blanket term for viruses, Trojans, worms, and other malicious software that hackers use to destroy or extract data that they can leverage for financial or other gains.
Types of Malware
Some of the common types of malware are:
A virus is a piece of code that inserts itself into a program or a file and is executed when that program is running. Viruses are designed to damage the computer by corrupting the data, formatting the storage devices, or damaging the operating system.
A worm is a standalone program designed to target vulnerabilities in operating systems and replicates itself to other computers in the same network without requiring a trigger from the user. Since they spread very fast, they are used to execute payloads. Once in position, they can steal data, delete files, give access to the hacker through a backdoor, or encrypt data for a ransomware attack.
A Trojan horse is malware that disguises itself as a legitimate file or software. Once downloaded by unsuspecting users, the Trojan kicks into action and can install more malware, steal data, monitor users, conduct Denial of Service attacks, modify files, corrupt data and steal financial information. Trojans may hide in apps, games, and software patches. They may also be embedded in emails during phishing attacks.
Just as the name suggests, ransomware is malware that holds your files captive and demands a ransom to be paid so that they can be released back. Once it gets into your computer, it encrypts the target files and leaves a message demanding payment normally in cryptocurrencies. However, there is no guarantee that once you pay, the decryption key will work correctly.
Spyware is malicious software that collects information about the user’s activities without their consent and sends them to the attacker. The information may include passwords, financial information, logins, and browsing habits.
Other types of malware are rootkits, adware, key loggers, bots, and mobile malware, and file-less malware.
Signs of a Malware in your Computer
As many small businesses conduct their activities through the internet, their Information technology security becomes vulnerable as many hackers use the internet to conduct the attacks. As part of a security awareness program, the employees in a small business should be able to identify signs of malware. Here are the common telltale signs of a malware attack.
1. Slow Computer
Are your files and apps taking longer than usual to load? Is your computer taking longer to start? If so, this is a potential sign of malware infiltrating your computer.
However, a slow computer does not necessarily mean that it is infected. Before you conclude that it is malware, you should consider what other factors might have contributed to the slow computer. Common causes apart from malware include; running out of RAM, running out of storage, update needed, or the type of program you are running.
2. Running out of Storage
Is your computer unexpectedly running out of space yet the files you have are not enough to fill your storage? This could be another sign of malware. Some malware replicates itself in your computer consequently consuming all the storage space.
3. Pop up Messages
Some types of malware such as adware bombard their victims with popups often in form of advertisements. Some pop-ups are common and do not imply that you have malware. However, if you keep getting popups everywhere, you might need to scan your computer.
4. Increase in Internet Traffic
A suspicious increase in internet traffic can potentially be a result of a malware infection. In this case, the malware could be uploading or downloading files or apps without your knowledge.
Once in a while, it is normal for a computer to crash especially if its usage is intense. However, frequent crashes should raise eyebrows. Sometimes, the crash might display the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD).
To check what caused your last crash, Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer and select Windows Logs. Those marked with "error" are your recorded crashes.
6. Security Solution is Disabled
Did you know that some malware are sneaky enough that they can disable your security solution? If you notice that your security solution was disabled without your input, you should immediately enable it and perform a full scan.
7. Ransom demands
Have you ever tried to access some files only to notice they are encrypted and have some weird extension. Then you notice a text file demanding payment so that your files can be released? If so, that is a ransomware attack. Some even threaten you that if you try decrypting the files, you will lose them.
How to Protect your Computer from Malware
With malware, this is one of the scenarios where prevention is better than cure. Some malware are extremely difficult to find let alone to remove. As a user, your focus should be to avoid possible sources of malware. HacWare is a A.I. driven security user training platform to help your team continuously learn how to avoid malware attacks.
Here are some ways to protect your computer;
1.Avoid opening suspicious email attachments
2. Avoid clicking random links that you do not know their source
3. Download apps only from the Microsoft Store if you are using Windows or Apple Store if you are using a Mac.
4. Only download files from trusted sources.
5. Implement the 3-2-1 + data storage strategy.
This strategy describes a method of having at least three total copies of your data, two copies should be local but on different devices or storage methods, and at least one copy should be off-site. The PLUS in this strategy takes it one step further and argues that one copy should be both offsite and offline. The offline copy is critical. This makes in inaccessible from the network so hackers, ransomware, and malicious insiders can’t destroy or ransomware all the data. This offline, offsite data means that companies can still maintain business continuity in the event of a catastrophic man-made or natural disaster. Learn more about how HacWare partner, Perpetual Storage can help with your data storage strategy.
It is also important to set up a security awareness program at your company because cybersecurity is a team sport and everyone needs to know how to prevent a malware outbreak. Here are is a guide on how to set up a security awareness program in 4 steps.
How to Remove Malware from your PC
The first step in removing malware is installing an anti-malware solution. You need to be very careful with this because you might end up installing malware in the process. Operating systems also come with an inbuilt malware solution. For example, Windows comes with Windows Defender. If your operating system has one, ensure that it is enabled.
Have you ever come across popups claiming that your computer has been infected by malware and that you need to install their software to prevent damage? Most of those popups will lead you directly to installing malware. They might appear to be scanning your computer but in the real sense, they are doing nothing, or worse, they might be installing malware.
Once you have your anti-malware solution in place, conduct regular full scans for malware. It is wise to set automatic scans that will run without input from the user.
Lastly, update your anti-malware solution once an update is out. Malware are rapidly evolving and so must your antivirus solution. An outdated anti-malware solution might not recognize some malware leaving your computer vulnerable.
Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to unleash attacks on unsuspecting computer users. With the worldwide internet coverage experienced today, malware are transmitted rapidly than ever before. Small businesses must therefore invest in information technology security. Having a robust Information technology department is not enough to keep you safe. The employees also to undergo security awareness training.
Installing a malware solution is not enough to keep you safe. You also need to actively protect your computers by avoiding risky habits such as clicking random links. HacWare's security awareness and training solution can continuously train your end-users on how to identify internet scams and change their risky behavior.
HacWare is a AI powered security awareness and training platform that helps SMBs continuously train their employees about cybersecurity attacks.
Learn more about HacWare at hacware.com. If you are a MSP or Managed Security Service provider (MSSP), we would love to automate your security education services, click here to learn more about our partner program.