Malware, computer viruses, and how to protect yourself.

zero and one graphic with skull and crossbones

Computer viruses have been around as long as the internet. This blog article will help explain the various types of viruses utilized in cyber-attacks, protect against malware attacks, and what to do if your computer or device gets infected with a computer virus.  

Types of Computer Viruses

Every day there are new versions of computer viruses. As a result, it seems that cyber attackers are always one step ahead of anti-malware development. This constant evolution makes it difficult to stay completely protected against cyber-attacks. Having a comprehensive backup protocol in place can help mitigate the destruction of an attack. 

Malware

Malware is short for Malicious Software and is the general term used for computer viruses (programming) designed to damage or disrupt an unsuspecting user’s computers or devices. Generally speaking, these types of computer viruses evolve daily and are almost impossible for antivirus software to get ahead of. These days, every system is vulnerable, and nobody is 100% safe — especially if they connect to the internet. 

Malware is any program designed to exploit your computer’s weaknesses and harm your system by replicating and spreading throughout your computer’s directories.

Ransomware

Ransomware is malware with a specific goal in mind. And, the purpose of ransomware is to keep you from accessing your valuable data. Ransomware blocks access to or encrypts your data, which makes it impossible to decipher. Ransomware attacks utilize Trojan Horses to deliver and install malicious software. 

Businesses with sensitive or critical information are targets for these types of attacks; however, anyone can fall prey to ransomware assaults. Recently, Universal Health Services was the victim of a ransomware attack. The average ransom for cyber-attacks increased in 2020 to $84,116, with the largest reported ransom being more than three-quarters of a million dollars. The ransomers usually demand payment in hard-to-trace bitcoin, but the real cost isn’t the ransom. It’s the time your company is offline and unable to operate. The financial implications are massive. For instance, ransomware attacks have cost the healthcare industry more than 157 million dollars since 2016.

Trojan Horse

A trojan horse is a tactic to mislead users into thinking they are downloading or performing a legitimate function when installing malicious software. These can be in the form of an email attachment, unscheduled software updates, or documents. Trojan horse viruses create back door access to your computer, permitting the attacker to access your personal information.

Ransomware regularly uses trojan horse methods to gain access to your computer systems.

Spyware

Spyware doesn’t impact the operations of your computer. The primary objective is to collect and forward valuable information to the attacker. The trouble with spyware is some legitimate websites and software utilize similar behaviors. For example, Google Chrome could exhibit spyware behavior. 

Have you ever noticed ads appearing on specific items you recently viewed on a retailer’s website? Spyware behaves this way. With this sort of functionality becoming more common, it’s challenging to define and ultimately regulate. Spyware spreads differently than other malware. It exploits vulnerabilities in software by bundling itself to desirable software downloads. Some websites install spyware code when a user visits the site.

Adware

I often think of adware as those unsolicited pop-up ads that seem to be missing a way to close them. However, with more programs marketed as Software As A Service (Saas), a new form of adware has surfaced, called Advertising-Supported Software. This form of adware is code that sends advertisements to a user’s browser or displays ads within a software program. Adware intends to generate revenue through ad views or pay-per-click models. Developers bundle this type of code on their programs to recoup development costs by creating additional revenue streams. Some examples of companies utilizing advertising-supported software are Google Ads, Facebook, Gmail, Windows 10, to name a few examples.

What can you do to protect your computers from cyber-attacks?

Malware is constantly changing and becoming more sophisticated, making it impossible to be 100% protected. Antivirus software is a great starting point and can help protect your computer from installing malicious code. Another layer of protection is end-point security, which is more comprehensive than antivirus software as it protects both network servers and devices (including phones). I recommend having someone knowledgeable with network and end-point security install and configure your protection software.  

What can you do if your computer has a virus?

Odds are you will experience a cyber-attack sometime in your life. If you suspect your computer may have picked up a virus or malware, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect your computer from the Internet and your network.
  2. Then, delete Cache and Temporary files.
  3. Purchase and install anti-malware software and try to remove malicious files yourself.
  4. Finally, contact Bit Perfection to run a complete diagnostic and deep scan to ensure your computer is virus-free.

Final thoughts

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, I strongly recommend implementing a network security program that includes anti-virus software and end-point security. But even more importantly, I recommend having your data backed up regularly and have an up-to-date business continuity plan in place. Bit Perfection can focus on protecting your technology so you can focus on what’s important — your business.