Most likely you know the terms Adware, Ransomware, Spyware, Trojan, or Virus and probably use them interchangeably. But, these are all very different kinds of Malware. Malware, an abbreviation of malicious software, is any piece of software that was created with the intent of damaging devices, steal data, or gain unauthorized access to devices. Every day, the AV-TEST Institute registers more than 350,000 new malware programs. Malware can infiltrate any device that requires software to function. Why all the malware? The short answer is MONEY! Typically malware is created by teams of hackers looking to make money by spreading it themselves or selling it on the Dark Web.
Adware – Not always malicious in nature, this is aggressive advertising software that undermines your security to serve you ads with annoying pop-ups.
Ransomware – Locks up your computer files and threatens to erase it all unless you pay a ransom.
Spyware – Designed to, get this, spy on you by hiding in the background stealing your passwords, credit card numbers, and anything else you type on the computer.
Trojan – Disguises itself as legitimate software then opens holes in your security to let other malware in.
Virus – Attach themselves to clean files and infect other clean files, spreading uncontrollably.
Now before you go throwing your laptop out the window, smashing your Fitbit with a hammer, and hiding under the covers, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from malware. You will see that a majority of suggestions here, or offered by an Internet search, involve user habits, behaviors, and awareness.
- Use anti-virus software and make sure it can install constant updates.
- Disable Bluetooth connectivity when you’re out in public. Bluetooth allows your phone to connect wirelessly with other electronics without your permission if left on or unattended.
- Do not connect to Open Wi-Fi. Joining an unencrypted open connection, like the pubic Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, means your internet traffic is open to any hackers inclined to capture it.
- Beware of Phishing emails, yes that is spelled right. Phishing emails are designed to lure you into a scam or trick you into clicking a link designed to infect your device. If it smells a little phishy or looks too good to be true, pleading you to open an attachment or click a link, click that delete button instead.
- Lock down your home Wi-Fi network. Make sure you have a good strong password for your personal wireless connection so people can’t spy on your traffic or infect devices while in the comfort of your own home.
- Pop-ups of DOOM! If you are browsing the internet minding your own business and a popup slams onto your screen, do not click anywhere on it. Close your browser and open it fresh. Also be on the lookout for Malvertising popups that look like advertising but lead you to malware. Moral of the story, don’t click on something that you did not intentionally search for or specifically browse to while on the Internet.