These days, there are incredible opportunities to learn, and even work, little more than an internet connection. However, as with anything, a WiFi-connected device can also bring on a host of threats like computer viruses and malware. It’s been estimated that 5.6 billion malware attacks took place every year, between 2015 and 2020. With this in mind, it’s best for smartphone users and computer owners to learn tips to avoid malware and keep themselves safe while browsing online and using devices.
What is malware?
Most of the trouble that people have with malicious software comes from a lack of understanding of what malware is and how it works.
Well, in simple terms, malware refers to any software that is designed to steal information or harm your computer. There are several different types of malware to watch out for:
- Virus: A computer virus is a program that infects your computer then copies itself so it’s hard to track and eliminate from your device.
- Worm: This type of malware uses your device to send copies of itself to other devices on a network.
- Spyware: These kinds of software programs are made to steal information from people without them knowing about it.
- Adware: As you browse online, these programs automatically display or download advertisements to your computer or device.
- Trojan horse: This software is designed to look like a good application so it gets past your device protection measures, but actually contains malicious code that will damage your device.
- Exploit kits: This refers to malicious kits that cybercriminals will develop to search for and target vulnerabilities in the software or operating system of a smartphone or computer.
What are the signs of a malware infection on devices?
Hackers can spread malicious code and software in a variety of ways, including through email, over messaging apps, through an infected ad, and much more. There are plenty of signs that indicate that your system has been corrupted, including:
- Slow performance, which can be due to the fact that malware takes up a lot of a device’s processing power.
- Frequent computer crashes or freezes, which can be a sign that malicious code is overworking your device’s RAM or CPU power.
- Deleted files (or corrupted files): If malware is made to destroy or infect files, you may notice that important files are deleted or corrupted and unable to be opened.
- Increase in pop-up ads: With adware, the goal is to send you tons of harmful, infected ads in the hope that you’ll click on at least one of them to get a malicious download to your devices.
- Ransom notice: Often, cybercriminals and hackers use malware to extort money from unsuspecting users. If this is the case, your computer will often freeze and display a notice demanding payment from you to restore your computer data and files.
How to prevent malware on your devices
Now that we’ve learned the definition and types of malware that can infect your devices and compromise the security of your files and data, it’s time to learn tips on preventing malware and other types of malicious access to your devices. Knowing the right tips will help you keep most viruses and infected files from getting on your computer.
Keep your software updated
One of the easiest yet most important tips you can practice is simply to keep your devices up to date with the latest software updates and operating system improvements. As manufacturers notice security issues or bugs in your applications or operating system, they’ll create a security patch or operating system update that fixes the issue. It’s best for any users concerned about malware or viruses to regularly check for software updates to ensure they have the best malware protection possible.
Practice password security
Creating passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember is a difficult challenge for most, if not all, users. Unfortunately, this causes users to reuse and recycle passwords across sites, which can cause a serious security issue if a hacker was ever to guess your password.
Just think about the effect if a hacker managed to guess the password that you use for online banking sites, credit card accounts, and other websites with financially sensitive information. The results would be disastrous, to say the least…
Most websites have built-in password requirements for you to follow when creating an account, but it’s up to you to store your passwords in a safe place. Many people find that a password manager is best since they can securely store every password for numerous websites and only have to remember one password.
Think before you click on unknown links
Suspicious links are one of the oldest ways that hackers use to trick users into downloading a virus or stealing data. Still, it works on many users who aren’t aware of the danger that a single link can cause them. Often, criminals create malware-infected files and host them on websites that appear trustworthy. Then, they’ll send you a professional-looking email with a link that looks like it’s from one of the websites you trust.
When you click on this link, though, you’ll be taken to any number of horrible websites filled with bad software, malware, and virus-laden programs that are waiting to go through your browser and infect your system and steal your data. Thus, it’s best to protect your computers and systems by thinking twice about a link in an email, text message, or on a website.
Don’t trust online popups.
Online advertisements which promise to show you “single women in your area” or “unbelievable facts about….” are known as clickbait. Clickbait is designed to get you to click on it for any number of reasons, from showing you advertisements, giving you a file download that’s infected with a virus, or asking you for personal data to be sold to other advertisers on the black market.
Install anti-virus software
There are numerous anti-virus available today, with companies like Norton and Avast offering great anti-virus solutions that are easy to install and use. It’s definitely recommended that you install a good anti-virus program on all of your computers so you can prevent malware and quickly spot suspicious behavior before you lose access to your data.
Be wary of email attachments or images.
Ransomware is often delivered through email attachments and infected images, which means you need to be careful when visiting a suspicious page. Often, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Chrome, and other browsers help you reduce the ransomware risk by displaying messages that ask your permission before downloading files and images.
In addition to the support that popular browsers offer to prevent malware, installing antivirus software will also help you protect your computers.
Don’t trust “free” software sites.
Looking for free movies, books, or other things makes many users an easy target for cybercriminals. Be wary of a site that offers software for free since they can often embed spyware, spam popups, or other tricks to get you to adjust your firewall settings, opt into sketchy services, or enable them to log what you type on your keyboard (like passwords and credit card numbers).
Choose ScreenWorks to repair your devices!
Dealing with malware can be an inconvenient and damaging problem that can arise for even the most diligent users. This is why ScreenWorks offers help with computer repairs, phone repairs, and tablet repairs to people throughout Fresno, Clovis, and other cities in Fresno County, California. Stop by one of our stores or book an appointment online today!