How Malware Works & How to Prevent It

Malware is the abbreviation for malware. It is any type of software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the informed consent of the owner. Trojans, viruses, worms, ransomware, and other threats fall into the category of malware. Good malware protection starts with good anti-malware software.

How to recognize and detect malware

Several symptoms are considered common signs of a malware infection, although many types of malware work without alerting you to their presence. In fact, covert programs can be even more of a malware threat than overt programs, as they can lead to things like identity theft and credit card fraud. If you notice that something is wrong, these signs could mean malware:

  • Performance issues – Computer runs slowly or crashes frequently? Even small amounts of malware can slow down or crash your computer, undermining hard drive resources while running in the background.
  • Unexplained PC Behavior – If things happen that you haven’t initiated, you can get infected. Common behavioral changes include mysterious new toolbars, unexplained changes to homepage settings, and suspicious search results.
  • Pop-ups and Spam Interruptions – While many pop-ups and emails from reputable companies are safe, adware programs that generate malicious pop-ups are capable of installing spyware to hijack your browser and capture your personal information even with reputable advertisements.

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How does malware work?

Malware typically infects a machine by tricking users into clicking and / or installing a program they shouldn’t from the Internet. When the click or installation occurs, the malicious code performs actions that the user does not anticipate or hear, which can include:

  • Self-replication in different parts of the file system
  • Install applications that capture keystrokes or commandeer system resources, often executed without the user being aware of it, while significantly slowing down the system
  • Block access to files, programs or even the system itself, sometimes forcing the user to make a payment to regain access
  • Bomb a browser or desktop with ads
  • Breaking down essential system components and rendering a device unusable

Execution can be triggered by a number of user actions, but the most common trigger is a click, usually a link or a pop-up. Descriptions may say something provocative like “Claim your prize” or “Your account has been compromised. Please log in and check for recent charges.” Many times a pop-up window will appear immediately after clicking the link, for example “Your system is infected! Click here to start a scan.” The next click often triggers the download of a malicious payload, even if the user does not select one of the options and instead attempts to close the program using the X corner.

Malware can also be disguised as a program or application that claims to convert PDFs, unzip files, find product discounts, or provide caller ID functionality on a smartphone. But once the program is downloaded, it begins to make unauthorized changes to the system: monitoring user behavior, showing pop-ups, changing search engine results, adding icons to a desktop, or redirecting popular sites.

HOW TO PREVENT MALWARE ATTACKS

The best approach to preventing malware attacks is the proactive one. A good place to start in preventing malware attacks in your organization is to educate your employees on how to recognize and protect their computers and devices from such attacks. Some of the best strategies employees should follow for a proactive approach to malware prevention are:

  • Make sure all updates and security patches are installed – Install updates and security patches as soon as possible to protect against malware and other security risks. This is especially important for popular and widely used programs such as Java, Adobe, and QuickTime. Enable automatic software updates when possible.
  • Avoid suspicious links and emails – When you receive an unsolicited or suspicious link or email, avoid it. These are often phishing emails intended to appear legitimate to trick users into downloading malware or revealing sensitive information. Keep in mind that it is very rare for a business to ask you for your password or other personal information via email, which is usually a sign of a phishing attack.
  • Avoid Suspicious Websites – Malware attackers often spoof popular websites. Therefore, if you notice anything abnormal on any website including URL, website functionality, etc., be careful and do not enter any sensitive data. To make sure that the website you are visiting is genuine, read the URL carefully and verify that the site is using HTTPS.
  • Examine Software Carefully Before Downloading – Before installing anything new on any computer or device, including free or trial versions of the software, examine the program and its reviews to ensure its legitimacy.
  • Take advantage of strong, unique passwords – Too many people continue to use easy-to-guess passwords or the same password for all of their accounts. It is imperative that you use a strong and unique password for each of your accounts. When offered, enable two-factor authentication to further secure access to your accounts.
  • Turn on your firewall – Your firewall is the set of rules that determines what information can access your PC, so you want to make sure it’s properly configured and turned on at all times.
  • Install Antivirus / Anti-Malware Software – Using advanced antivirus programs like RAM Ultimate Antivirus that monitor your system will protect you against common malware and other security risks. With RAM antivirus software, you can block and prevent many infiltration before they happen.
  • Limit Application Privileges – Malware often needs full access to your computer to function properly, so you should use account controls to limit what a program can do without your permission. Then when you are notified of software or applications that are trying to make changes to your system, you can pay attention to notifications and get help to prevent malware installation.

This article covers the answers to some of your frequently asked questions:

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