Malware — shorthand for malicious software — is a code or program designed and deployed by cybercriminals to infect your computer systems in order to damage, disable, or exploit your company.
Hackers create malware to attack your business and try to:
- Steal, encrypt, or delete sensitive information, such as passwords or customer data
- Hijack and modify core system functions
- Monitor your activity without permission
- Blackmail or extort money in the form of ransom
- Inject spam or forced advertising
Of all the data breaches, 28% involve malware according to Verizon.
What’s more, stats suggest that 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses, the average cost of a malware attack on a company is $2.4 million, and 34% of businesses hit with malware took a week or more to regain access to their data.
And with the number of new malware detections increasing every day, it goes without saying that your company must be proactive about preventing malware infections in order to:
- Safeguard sensitive company information and workflows
- Maintain the trust and data of customers
- Avert huge monetary and reputation losses
Before taking a look at what you can do to protect your company against malware attacks, let’s look at the…
Types of Malware
Malware is just an umbrella term for a wide variety of cyberattacks. Here are some of the most common types of malware you need to watch out for:
- Ransomware: One of the most common types of malware, ransomware restricts users from accessing a system or its data, and often threatens to publish or delete data, until a ransom is paid.
- Virus: The oldest type of malware, a virus attacks a device when a user clicks on an infected executable file. It can then spread to all files and programs, corrupting them.
- Worm: Another common and dangerous type of malware, worms are viruses that can replicate themselves without being attached to a program or run by a user.
- Adware: This malware delivers forced unwanted advertisements and monitors your online behavior to generate revenue for its developer.
- Spyware: This malware is created to collect information about your company. Once installed, it can record keystrokes and extract sensitive information.
- Backdoor: Also known as a trapdoor, this enables hackers to bypass normal security measures and gain high-level user access to your system or network.
- Rogueware: This malware misleads you into believing that your device is infected so you’ll click on the fake warning, which then installs the actual malware.
- Trojan horse: Similar to rogueware, a trojan horse mimics legitimate software to deceive you into installing malware.
Signs of a Malware Infection
Malware is typically distributed via email attachments, deceptive internet ads, or infected applications.
If your device displays the following symptoms, you may have been successfully breached with a malware attack:
- Slow system functionality
- Excessive pop-ups that look spammy
- Frequent system crashes
- Unknown icons or files on the desktop
- Unprompted redirects to unknown websites
- Disabled programs
To prevent these from ever occurring in the first place, your best bet is to understand the…
Proactive Measures You Can Take to Protect Against Malware Attacks
Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping to never be targeted by cybercriminals, you can take proactive measures to protect yourself from malware attacks. Here are five key steps to take right away.
Install Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software
The first and most obvious way to be proactive is to invest in protective software that serves as the first layer of security for your devices.
Installing anti-virus and anti-malware software is a great way to attain real-time protection as these programs are designed to frequently scan, detect, and remove malicious software such as spyware, adware, and worms.
It is also a good idea to implement a firewall, an intrusion detection system (IDS), and an intrusion prevention system (IPS).
Keep Everything Up-To-Date
Using anti-virus software, content management systems, plugins, and browser extensions to make your life easier is fine, but all of these come with vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
While software vendors are constantly creating updates and patches to keep up with the fast-evolving nature of malware and cyberattacks, it is your responsibility to keep your devices and software tools up-to-date so hackers can’t gain access due to outdated software.
So, make sure to regularly update your operating systems, software tools, browsers, plugins, etc. Also, have a routine maintenance check in place to ensure all software is current and to check for signs of malware in logs.
Also, perform frequent backups of all your critical data as in the worst-case scenario, the quickest way to bounce back is to restore your last backup.
Secure Your Authentication
Keep all your (and your team’s) accounts safe by following these best practices:
- Enforce super-strong passwords with at least eight characters, including an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, a number, and a symbol in each password.
- Enable two-factor authentication (a verification code sent to your registered phone or email to verify that the person logging in is indeed you) in addition to a password.
- Wherever possible, use biometric tools like fingerprints or facial recognition.
- Never save passwords on a computer or network. If required, use a secure password manager to keep track of all passwords.
- Let logins expire after a few hours of inactivity and set a limit on the allowable number of login attempts.
Use Admin Access Only When Necessary
Once it gets through, malware often has the same privileges as an active human user. However, non-administrator accounts can be blocked from accessing the most sensitive parts of your computer or network system. Thus:
- Avoid using administrative privileges for everyday tasks such as checking email.
- Only sign in as an admin to carry out administrative tasks, such as to make configuration changes.
- Install any software using administrator credentials only after you have verified that it is legitimate and secure.
Educate Your Team
Ultimately, your employees can be your best line of defense (or your worst weakness). By continually educating your team on cybersecurity, you minimize the risk that they will be tricked by phishing or other social engineering scams and unwittingly introduce malware into your company.
Here are a few things to do:
- Build awareness of common malware attacks.
- Host training sessions on how to spot phishing emails and malicious links.
- Encourage employees to report unusual system behavior.
- Require remote workers to only join secure networks (not public WiFi) and to use VPNs for both work and leisure activities (such as streaming media platforms like 123movies, gaming or similar activities).
Over to You
A successful malware attack can cause serious financial and reputation damage to your company. It may even drive you out of business. Take the proactive measures outlined above to protect your business from malware attacks and ensure all sensitive information remains secure.