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Clicking on an emailed link or using public Wi-Fi might seem like harmless, everyday actions. But whether on a desktop computer, a smartphone, or another personal device, these innocuous decisions can sometimes lead to big problems.
Criminals are regularly trying to inject devices with harmful code and software known as malware, hoping to gain access to your personal information or even hold your device for ransom. Anyone who owns a device should be aware of this threat and how to thwart it. Here’s a quick guide on how to prevent malware from infecting your devices.
According to CSO Online, malware is a portmanteau of the phrase “malicious software.” It’s a catch-all term that encompasses many types of software programs designed to penetrate your devices, gain access to information, and cause damage. Common types of malware include viruses, trojans, worms, and spyware, but more advanced software, such as ransomware, is also considered malware.
Regardless of the goal of this software, the function is the same: malware tries to find covert paths into your device that evade whatever security measures are in place. Once on your device, the malware is free to do its damage, causing headaches for unlucky device owners.
The consequences of malware often depend on the intended goals of that malware. The most common types of malware are designed to gain access to computers and systems, acquire admin control, and steal or destroy sensitive data. In some cases, these forms of malware will breach business computer systems to burden bandwidth and processing capabilities, hindering the system’s ability to function.
Data theft should not be taken lightly. This information can range from basic user data to photos and documents stored on your device. It can even include banking and other financial information that hackers could use to steal your money.
Ransomware, which is a more advanced kind of malware, victimizes users by locking a device and threatening to wipe it clean if a payment isn’t made to the hacker within a set period of time.
If malware breaches a company’s system, the cost of damages typically depends on the number of devices affected and the business workflows interrupted. According to Accenture, the average cost of a malware attack on a business is around $2.4 million.
Malware poses a constant threat to any device owner, but there are a few steps you can take to minimize your risk:
- Keep your device up to date on security updates and patches. These updates typically respond to recent security threats, fortifying your device against attacks.
- Install anti-malware software to scan for threats and quarantine dangerous software.
- Use password protection on apps and software with sensitive data, to protect their content in case of a malware breach.
- Use secure Wi-Fi networks whenever possible.
- Never click on links when you don’t know their source.
These simple safeguards can help device owners avoid the vast majority of potential malware breaches.
Malware can be very damaging to both businesses and individual device owners, but as these threats evolve over time, so should your malware security efforts. By following the best practices for malware prevention, you can keep your devices secure and your private data safe from would-be hackers.