To tackle malware in 2020, it’s important to understand what is meant by the term, the examples of it that have become outdated, and the types of malware you are most likely to encounter now. It’s very easy to get confused with cyber security terminology, not least of all because hackers use a dizzying array of new and sophisticated tactics to exploit security systems for their own gain.
Modern malware solutions are increasingly proactive and effective, but it remains essential that you have a basic understanding of the terminologies, the risks, and the best ways to not fall victim to both traditional and emerging malware attacks.
One of the most well-understood examples of malware is no longer commonly used by hackers. One of the most popular terms to describe malware, particularly by those that lack an understanding of the right terms, is the ‘virus’. This is an error because the majority of malware types are not viruses at all. Viruses infect other systems so they can be hard to eradicate. However, now that most people are aware of virus threats, they can be relatively easy to avoid by doing the following:
- Never download unknown or untrusted files or programs
- Pay attention to Adobe Flash Java, and Acrobat Reader as these have been particularly susceptible to virus attacks
- Use anti-virus software
- Keep your security systems updated
Although viruses are rarer in 2020, they do still happen, so stay aware of the risks.
Present on the Internet for even longer than viruses, worms work in a similar way to a virus, but they self-replicate rather than directly infect files. The ILOVEYOU worm was an especially well-reported example which affected computer systems and phones. Worms are especially dangerous because they require no action on the part of the system user, unlike a virus or a trojan horse. Firewalls are vital security tools in 2020 and are essential for defending against worms, no matter how rare they now are.
Trojans replaced the traditional worm attack and they are very easy for hackers to make. Loaded with malicious intent, they are usually sent via an email or messaging app when a user visits a particular website. They are often in disguise as an antivirus program, and if fallen for, will infect a computer system very quickly. While firewalls and antivirus software can help, it is the end user that needs to be trained to identify trojans.
One of the newest types of cyber attacks, ransomware simply prevents you from accessing your systems or your data. Files are immediately encrypted, and hackers then demand payment before allowing you to regain control. Often a payment is made and access is still denied. Malware is very challenging to beat, but McAfee security experts at McAfee.com highlight the need for more proactive endpoint security.
Adware and Malvertising
While adware is more of a manipulation than a true cyber security issue, it can be very frustrating. It simply sends you to dubious versions of more established websites and makes you think that you are on the right platform. Any information that you hand over might then be sold on.
However, malvertising can be much more damaging. This is when cybercriminals put a paid-for advert on a legitimate website that, once clicked on by the unwary, delivers ransomware, cryptomining tools, or trojans. Just like trojans, malvertising is best prevented by learning to recognize potential examples, keeping security software updated, and uninstalling any unnecessary browser plug-ins.
Cyber criminals do not stick to the same methods of attack, so it’s essential that the right software, hardware, and user training is prioritised if you want to keep your online security as robust as possible. Make sure that you keep up to date with the latest cyber threats and ensure that you have taken steps to ensure that you are making it as difficult as possible for the maliciously-minded.