Malware

During this time strange and troubling time all around the world due to Covid-19, we now see people working from home becoming the norm even if only for a short period of time.

At this time unscrupulous people have not stopped trying to attack your devices and businesses, so it is even more important you and your employees remain vigilant and have good security in place for all your devices.

You probably have an antivirus or internet security package, but what about those attacks not covered by antivirus??

So What is Malware?

The term malware is made up of a combination of the words malicious software.

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 malicious software engineered to work for its makers, and not for the computer user.

Malware might steal your identity, install unwanted programs, or encrypt and hold your digital files for ransom.

As a term, “malware” covers all sorts of malicious software, including Trojans, spyware, adware, ransomware, and viruses. Malware is now often delivered by exploiting flaws (“exploits”) in legitimate programs.

Types of Malware

  • Trojans
  • Viruses
  • Spyware
  • Worms
  • Adware
  • Ransomeware

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.

Viruses

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).

Spyware

No surprise here — 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.

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. Plus, let’s face it: pop-ups are really annoying.

Ransomeware

This kind of malware typically locks down your computer and your files, and threatens to erase everything unless you pay a ransom.

How do you get malware?

Each type of malware has its own unique way of causing havoc, and most rely on user action of some kind. Some strains are delivered over email via a link or executable file. Others are delivered via instant messaging or social media. Even mobile phones are vulnerable to attack. It is essential that organizations are aware of all vulnerabilities so they can lay down an effective line of defense.

The two most common ways that malware accesses your system—the Internet and email. So basically, anytime you’re connected online.

Malware can infect your computer when surfing hacked websites, click on game demos, download infected music files, install new toolbars from an unfamiliar provider, set up software from a dicey source, open a malicious email attachment, or pretty much everything else you download from the web onto a device that lacks a quality anti-malware security application.

Malware can hide in seemingly legitimate applications, especially when they are downloaded from websites or messages instead of a secure app store.

It is important to look at the warning messages when installing applications, especially if they seek permission to access your email or other personal information.

Each type of malware has its own unique way of causing havoc, and most rely on user action of some kind. Some strains are delivered over email via a link or executable file. Others are delivered via instant messaging or social media. Even mobile phones are vulnerable to attack. It is essential that organizations are aware of all vulnerabilities so they can lay down an effective line of defense.

How to protect against malware?

There are actually two areas to consider where protection against malwarwe is concerned:

  1. Protective tools - Easiest to implement, you can often set and forget best-in-class protective software that manages and updates itself. With good user policies in place and the right anti-malware solutions constantly monitoring the network, email, web requests and other activities that could put your organization at risk, malware stands less of a chance of infecting your network or standalone PC.
  2. User vigilance - The best guard against malware from getting onto your devices is yourself, however it is very easy to be fooled by an email that looks genuine either offering something too good to be true or frightening you into clicking on something ("install this antivirus software immediately"). Education is key to ensure everyone in the business is aware of the risk of malware and what they can do to prevent an attack.

There are lots of malware protection tools available, however you want to make sure you get a highly commended one, such as Malwarebytes Antimalware

There is a free version and a paid version, the main difference being that the paid version offers real time protection which we would suggest you buy.

We can offer discounts on the paid version, so please contact us for more information.

Keeping software up to date

Can keeping your software, drivers, applications up to date help prevent malware?

Yes without a doubt it can. It is very important to make sure you regularly ensure all of your programs, drivers and especially the operating system are kept up to date.

Operating System updates, especially those for vulnerabilities are required to prevent hackers from accessing your device so please ensure you have an update policy in place.

Backups

In addition to having an update policy and ensuring your device is up to date, it is essential to have a good backup in place.

This could be an en-premise backup, but we would also reccommend for business continuity that you also have a cloud based backup.

Ideally you should have more than one backup, not just in case of malware attacks but also in case of fire, flood, theft or hardware failures.

If you were to get a ransomeware attack and all your files were encrypted then having an up to date backup of your files could save you a lot of time and hassle!

How do you know if you have malware?

Malware can manifest itself in many ways, below are some of the most common:

  • Your computer slows down. One of malware’s main effects is to reduce the speed of your operating system, whether you’re navigating the Internet or just using your local applications.
  • A tidal wave of annoying ads that shouldn’t be there washes over your screen. Unexpected pop-up ads are a typical sign of a malware infection. They’re especially associated with a form of malware known as adware. What’s more, pop-ups usually come packaged with other hidden malware threats. So if you see something akin to “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’VE WON A FREE PSYCHIC READING!” in a pop-up, don’t click on it. Whatever free prize the ad promises, it will cost you plenty.
  • Your system repeatedly crashes, freezes, or displays a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), which can occur on Windows systems after encountering a fatal error.
  • You notice a mysterious loss of disk space, probably due to a bloated malware squatter which hides in your hard drive.
  • There’s a weird increase in your system’s Internet activity.
  • Usage of your system resources is abnormally high and your computer’s fan starts whirling away at full speed—signs of malware activity taking up system resources in the background.
  • Your browser’s homepage changes without your permission. Similarly, links you click send you to an unwanted web destination. This usually means you clicked on that “congratulations” pop-up, which downloaded some unwanted software. Likewise, your browser might slow to a crawl.
  • New toolbars, extensions, or plugins unexpectedly populate your browser.
  • Your antivirus product stops working and you cannot update it, leaving you unprotected against the sneaky malware that disabled it.
  • Then there’s the painfully obvious, intentionally non-stealthy malware attack. This famously happens with ransomware, which announces itself, tells you it has your data, and demands a ransom to return your files.
  • Even if everything seems to be working just fine on your system, don’t get complacent, because no news isn’t necessarily good news. Powerful malware can hide deep in your computer, going about its dirty business without raising any red flags as it snags your passwords, steals sensitive files, or uses your PC to spread to other computers.

What should you do if you have malware?

If you believe you have malware on your device, don't worry all is not lost as there are lots of software programs available to remove malware which we can help you with.

Firstly and most importantly disconnect your device from the internet/network to prevent it infecting any other devices.

Ideally if you suspect it has been infected with malware turn it off and seek advice on how to remove the infection.

Can Mac's get malware?

I'm sure you've heard it said that Apple Mac's do not need anti-virus software because they can't get infected!

Mac systems are subject to the same vulnerabilities (and subsequent symptoms of infection) as Windows machines and cannot be considered bulletproof.

For instance, the Mac’s built-in protection against malware doesn’t block all the adware and spyware bundled with fraudulent application downloads.

Trojans and keyloggers are also threats.

The first detection of ransomware written specifically for the Mac occurred in March 2016, when a Trojan-delivered attack affected more than 7,000 Mac users.

Can smartphones get malware?

Smartphones and tablets are simply complex handheld computers, and as such yes they can also be infected by malware!

By their very nature they hold a huge amount of personal information, financial details, and all manner of valuable data for those seeking to make a dishonest dollar.

So you need to vigilant not just on your PC/laptop but also on your smartphone or tablet.

Are Android devices more susceptible than iPhones?

The two most prevalent smartphone operating systems are Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Android leads the market with 80 percent of all smartphone sales, followed by iOS with 15 percent of all smartphones sold. No big surprise then that the more popular Android platform attracts more malware than the iPhone, but yes iPhone's are also susceptible!