A malware attack can cause severe damage to your business. It can serve you malicious ads, lock your device, encrypt sensitive data, steal login credentials, spy on your PC, and much worse. So knowing how to prevent malware attacks is critical for your business.
This article will explore what malware is, types of malware, signs of malware infection, and how to prevent a malware attack. Let’s dive in.
What Is Malware?
Malware, a short form of malicious software, is a blanket term for any computer software program designed to damage a computer or a computer network.
Hackers carry out malware attacks to:
- Trick users into divulging sensitive information like login credentials or social security numbers.
- Encrypt or steal data from users’ computers, hoping to receive a ransom in exchange for giving access to data back.
- Spy victims’ computers to steal credit cards and other financial data.
- Gain access to multiple computers to perpetuate denial of service (DoS) attacks.
Even if malware doesn’t have malicious intent, it can remain dormant on the infected device for days or months. And the malware will swing into action when it can cause the most damage.
Malicious Software in 2023
Malware attacks have been creating havoc on businesses worldwide. There were about 5.4 billion malware attacks globally in 2021. And the first half of 2022 witnessed around 2.8 billion malware attacks worldwide.
So you can expect that malware attacks will continue to target businesses with the same ferocity in 2023. You should be ready to deal with this cybersecurity threat as a business owner. And knowing about the different types of malware is the first step toward learning about malware prevention.
Types of Malware
Here are critical types of malware you must know about.
- Ransomware – Ransomware locks the device or encrypts data and demands ransoms in exchange for giving access to the device or data. Example: LockBit
- Spyware – As the name suggests, Spyware spies on victims’ devices to steal sensitive information. Example: FinSpy
- Adware – Adware serves unwanted ads on infected devices. By doing so, they earn revenue for their creators as advertiser pays for views and clicks. Example: Fireball
- Trojan Horse – Trojan Horse disguises itself as legitimate software, like a free version of paid software. Once it enters a victim’s computer, Trojan Horse releases its malicious code to install viruses, perform keylogging, encrypting or stealing data. Example: Ice IX
- Wiper – The sole purpose of Wiper malware is to delete data beyond recovery. Example: Shamoon
- Keylogger – Keylogger tracks users’ keystrokes to steal login credentials and other sensitive information. Example: Ardamax Keylogger
- Bots – It is a self-replicating malware, spreading itself to other computers. Once inside a network, it creates a botnet (network of bots). Then, a hacker can use this botnet to send phishing emails and carry out denial of service attacks or other cyber attacks. Example: Gameover Zeus
- Rootkit – Often affecting operating systems and software, Rootkits offer admin privileges to hackers. As a result, hackers can use infected devices the way they want. The main consequences of a rootkit include but are not limited to information theft, remote access, file execution, eavesdropping, and file deletion. Example: Rovnix
Signs of a Malware Infection
The following are telltale signs of a malware infection:
- If you suddenly start seeing annoying ads on your PC, it can be a sign of malware infection. What’s worse, these pop-up ads are often loaded with other malware programs.
- Your access to your computer or data stored on it is denied. Eventually, you will get a ransom note stating that your PC has been infected by ransomware.
- Your web browser’s settings have been changed, and you will see new toolbars, extensions, and plugins installed without your permission.
- You notice increased Internet activity on your PC.
- There is a significant loss of disk space on your computer.
- Your computer may be infected by malware if the antivirus software has stopped working and you cannot turn it on.
Also, if your PC frequently crashes without any reason, it could be a sign of a malware attack. Sometimes malware stays inactive for days and months and becomes active when it can harm the PC significantly.
Therefore, you must use the latest security software and security tools for malware protection.
How to Prevent Malware Attacks
How do you avoid malware infection? The following are seven proven malware prevention strategies:
1. Install an Anti-Malware Program
A powerful anti-malware program offers a first line of defense against malware-related threats. It scans your computers, servers, and networks in real time and mitigates any malware threat it finds before the threat can damage your IT infrastructure.
When selecting an anti-malware program for your business, make sure you pick the one that offers the following:
- User-device level protection
- Browser protection
- Network protection
- Server-level protection
Also, you should use a firewall to provide your network and devices with additional security.
2. Implement Secure Authentication Methods
You can prevent your systems and networks from unauthorized access by implementing secure authentication methods.
Here are some best practices:
- Enable multi-factor authentication
- Use a password manager for password management
- Start using physical tools like smart cards for authentication
- Implement biometric tools like fingerprints or iris scans for authentication
A secure authentication method can help you prevent malware and many other common cyber threats if used strategically.
3. Implement Email Security
Email is often used to spread malware and carry out phishing attacks. So enhancing email security can prevent your business from malware attacks and other programs that can harm your IT infrastructure.
Consider implementing a secure email gateway to filter out malicious attachments and automate email encryption to protect email content.
Also, you should encourage your employees to follow email security best practices.
4. Monitor Suspicious Activity
Using an intrusion detection system (IDS) to monitor inbound and outbound network traffic for abnormal activities helps prevent malware infection.
When an IDS detects an alert for any abnormal activity, your cybersecurity team can look into it. And if it is a malware infection, your team can take further steps to remove it.
Also, you should implement an intrusion prevention system (IPS) to eliminate malicious requests from incoming traffic proactively.
Using both IDS and IPS can take your network security to the next level.
5. Follow the Principle of Least Privilege
The principle of least privilege is a security concept. In this method, you provide your users with the least data and resources required to perform their duties.
As a result, a victim of a malware attack has minimum access to files and resources. So you can contain malware in the area of origin to prevent further spreading into the network.
If you give all of your employees administrative privileges, you will increase your business’s attack surface. And malware can easily spread on other devices.
6. Update Operating Systems and Software
Outdated software and operating systems tend to have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain access to your computer systems. Once they gain access, they can easily infect devices with malware.
So it is critical to keep operating systems and software up-to-date. Never delay any operating system or software update – install it as soon it is available.
7. Train Your Employees
Hackers don’t target small businesses on a massive scale. Instead, they target individual employees or small teams to gain access to your IT infrastructure.
So training your employees on the digital best practices is one of the most effective ways to protect from malware or ransomware attacks.
A cybersecurity training program in your business should help users in the following key areas:
- Spotting malicious email attachments and malicious websites
- Avoiding downloading files from malicious sites
- Learning about various social engineering techniques
- Understanding the importance of creating strong passwords
- Knowing a way to use removable media safely
- Making users know how to report and respond to cyber threats
Regardless of the topics cybersecurity awareness training covers, you should tailor the training to your employees’ needs.
Why Is It Important for Small Business Owners to Learn How to Avoid Malware?
On average, malware and other web-based attacks can cost businesses around $2.4 million. What’s worse, a malware attack can be a reason for a data breach that can cost businesses around $4.35 million. So small business owners must learn how to avoid malware.
What Happens When You Visit Malicious Websites?
Visiting a malicious website can expose you to drive-by-download, malvertising, URL injections, or Java script injections. Even if you don’t click on malicious links, your PC can get infected by visiting a malicious website.
What Is the Best Software for Preventing Malware Attacks?
Bitdefender is probably the best software for preventing malware attacks. However, the best anti-malware program for your business is the one that takes care of your security needs. So first understand your business needs and then search for the right security tool for preventing malware attacks.
What Is the Best Defense Against Malware?
Humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity. So the best defense against malware is to train your team on the best cybersecurity practices. Anti-malware software, implementing strong authentication methods, and updating systems and software are proven ways to avoid malware infection.
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