Today’s world of constantly evolving and changing. You might follow all the tech blogs and get excited about the real-world impact these changes can have. Advances in medicine, education and other industries rely on this ever-changing technology.
Unfortunately, this change can also bring about more security threats than ever before. People looking to steal your identity or information also use new technology to take advantages of unsuspecting victims.
The bulk of this harm is caused by malware on personal computers. But what is malware, and how do you protect yourself against it? Let’s dive into malware and the most harmful kinds so you can learn how to defend against it.
What is Malware?
Simply put, malware is a piece of software that was created with malicious intent. After it’s installed on your computer, it works to steal your information or damage your system in some way.
Malware is one of the biggest topics in the cyber security world, and it’s easy to see why. In the last few years, the presence of malware has grown exponentially. More malware is coming to light that has never been seen before.
But what are the most harmful types of malware? The more you know about malware and the biggest offenders, the more you can defend against them.
In this post, we’ve identified the top 15 types of malware:
- Ransomware – Ransomware is a fairly new kind of malware that is wreaking havoc on people’s lives and computers. Once it’s installed on your computer, it typically denies you access to your most important data unless you pay a ransom. Many times, the attacker does not restore access to the data, even after you’ve paid the ransom. You can protect yourself against ransomware with a reliable antivirus, regular updates and extra vigilance. Don’t give software administrator privileges unless its software you trust.
- Spyware – Spyware’s name is self-explanatory. It’s a piece of malware that, once installed on your computer, spies on you. More specifically, it collects information as you enter it into your computer, either online or in personal files. Spyware can also act to significantly decrease your overall system performance. You’ll know you have spyware installed on your computer if you experience constant pop-ups, site redirections and unexpected toolbars appearing in your web browser. You can prevent infection by remaining vigilant online and not clicking on suspicious links or downloading suspicious files.
- Trojan – Trojans are one of the most classic forms of malware. They were one of the earliest types of malware. Trojans disguise themselves as much as possible within other types of software. Their purpose is to open a door to other types of malware without being detected, which is what makes them so dangerous. Trojans need your permission to run on your computer. As such, it’s important that you not open suspicious email attachments or run unknown software.
- Exploit – Exploits are malware that specifically targets bugs or weaknesses in your computer. Since these often target operating systems or specific kinds of software, they are used to control those items without your consent. If an exploit on your operating system is used, you could potentially lose all your sensitive data. The best way to defend against an exploit is to keep your computer’s operating system and software up to date always. Companies are constantly on the lookout for bugs and errors so they can release security patches as soon as possible.
- Botnets – Botnets are another type of malware that’s fairly new in the cybersecurity space. Simply put, botnets are a network of infected devices to spread malware at an exponentially larger scale. If your computer is part of a botnet, it is being used to spread malware, send spam or overload websites, activities you don’t want to be a part of. Antivirus software is one of the best tools to prevent your computer from becoming a part of a botnet. You should also follow standard prevention techniques like not clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown software.
- KeyLogger – Keyloggers are one of the scariest kinds of malware, due to the fact that they can record your typically-protected information like passwords, usernames, bank account numbers and more. Keyloggers track everything you type into your computer and attackers use them to steal your extra-sensitive information to access information that is usually protected by someone else, like your bank or software company. Follow standard online security practices to avoid getting infected with a keylogger. Many antivirus software options also include extra measures like onscreen keyboards to prevent keyloggers from tracking your keystrokes.
- Phishing – Phishing is one of the most common types of malware out there, but it’s also one of the most effective. Phishers use email or web interfaces to trick you into voluntarily giving them your data. If you’ve ever heard of a Nigerian prince asking for money, you’ve likely heard of phishing schemes. Use common sense to avoid phishing schemes. Don’t give your information out to people you don’t know and avoid opening emails from people you don’t know.
- Adware – Adware uses your personal information to personalize the advertisements you see online. While this doesn’t seem malicious on the surface, they can be a gateway to other kinds of malware, and they track your personal browsing habits. Adware can also slow down your computer. To prevent adware, block popups and use antivirus software. You can also use a software firewall to keep adware from following you around.
- Rootkit – Rootkits give an attacker full, administrative control of your system without you knowing about it. They hide deep within your system, and they’re difficult to detect, which is what makes them so harmful. It’s difficult to protect yourself fully against rootkits, but you can and should employ basic computer safety principles. Maintain a current version of your antivirus software and ensure your operating system and all your software is up to date.
- Worms – Worms are malicious pieces of software that act much like their real-world counterparts. They burrow into your computer and start replicating themselves to spread the infection and steal more information. Some worms leave behind more malware to cause damage to your computer. Worms infect your computer through vulnerabilities in out-of-date software, so be sure to keep everything updated to prevent them from getting to you.