Home Business Insights & Advice Keeping your business safe online: The six most common types of malware and how to stay protected

Keeping your business safe online: The six most common types of malware and how to stay protected

by John Saunders
30th Apr 21 1:17 pm

Computer safety has never been more important when you’re in charge of a business. The majority of businesses manage other people’s data and have the responsibility of keeping that information safe from malware. This is a type of software that can infiltrate your computer or device, with the intention to damage, destroy or disable the running of your device. Sometimes, malware is used purely for the hacker’s entertainment, while on other occasions, the hacker may ask for money or a reward for fixing the problem.

A malware attack can be incredibly damaging for your business. Just look at the 2017 NHS cyber-attack, which targeted tens of thousands of computers around the world and saw cancelled operations, diverted ambulances, and important customer documents being made unavailable. 24 hours later, things still weren’t back to normal- and we know that in the world of business, 24 hours is a long time!

With reports that cybercrime has increased by 600% due to the COVID19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that yourself and your staff are properly educated about the types of malware online and how to stay protected from them. First, let’s start with the six most common types of malware:

Virus

A virus is a piece of code which will target your computer by reformatting the hard disk, corrupting data or completely shutting down the system. This malware quickly replicates itself and can cause serious harm to your computer by stealing and destroying information.

A virus can only be caused by human action, usually by clicking an infected email attachment, visiting an infected website or downloading infected content.

Worm

A worm is a computer programme that is able to replicate itself and spread from computer to computer. This common type of malware is passed on through networks and doesn’t require any human action to spread.

Like viruses, worms can steal and delete data and encrypt data for a ransomware attack. Since they can spread fast, a huge amount of destruction can usually occur in just a matter of minutes.

Trojan Horse

Like the Trojan Horse that you learnt about in your history lessons at school, this type of malware will enter your system disguised as a normal, harmless file, making it much easier for you to be tricked into downloading or clicking on it.

Installing a trojan will put your business at immediate risk from your information being stolen, modified or deleted, and your activity is likely to be monitored by the hackers. Trojan malware cannot replicate by itself, however it is often combined with other types of malware which makes it incredibly harmful.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware that tracks your internet searches and web activity without your knowledge. It works by collecting keystrokes and can easily gather personal information such as passwords, account details and financial information.

This is incredibly damaging to a business since sensitive information and customer data could easily get into the wrong hands.

Adware

If you’ve ever clicked onto a dodgy website before then you’ll probably be aware of adware. Adware is a type of aggressive software that displays unwanted ads on your computer and can even use your browser to collect information and create targeted ads based on your recent searches.

These ads will then redirect you to their sites, alter your internet browser settings and make changes to your home page. Legitimate adware will ask for your permission before collecting your information, while malicious adware will not.

Ransomware

Ransomware is the type of malware that you’ve probably heard lots about in the media, since cyber criminals can make a huge amount of money from targeting big businesses. Ransomware will hold your data captive and prevent you from being able to access your files until you’ve paid back a financial reward.

Often, you will see a message on your computer screen explaining that you have been hacked and that everything will be returned to normal if you pay a specific amount. Hackers usually ask for a significant amount of money, so if you’re a small business with a limited budget, you may not be in a position to be able to get your files back again.

Prevention is key

Once your systems have been infiltrated with harmful malware, the problem becomes difficult to solve. Hundreds of small businesses have had to start from scratch after a malware attack, losing the trust of their customers in the process. But this doesn’t have to be you.

The best thing to do is to put several different methods in place to prevent an attack from happening in the first place. Here are just some of the things you can do:

Keep your systems up-to-date

One of the most important things you should remember is to always use systems that are up-to-date. A System that is out-of-date is vulnerable, therefore much more likely to be open to an attack. Hackers use modern technology which helps them to find software, operating systems and networks that are easy to exploit, so don’t make it any easier for them.

Updates can be annoying sometimes, but the length of time it takes for you to do an update is still going to be less than the time it would take to restore all of your information if you lost it to a hacker.

If your business uses an old version of Windows, then it’s imperative that you switch to a newer version, or you’ll end up being much more vulnerable to ransomware. You can buy a new Microsoft product license on MS Office Store, who offer discounted prices on all their Microsoft packages. You can download your package as soon as your purchase is completed, making this one of the quickest ways you can protect your business.

Use a good antivirus software

An antivirus software works by scanning all new files and codes and detecting any suspected malware. What’s more, this software will warn you about any posed threats and block the malware from entering your computer system. It’s then your choice whether you choose to go forward with the action or not.

Just like any computer programme, you should be sure to update your antivirus regularly to ensure that it continues to work in top condition.

Monitor emails

With research from 2018 finding that 92.4% of malware is delivered via email, you should take extra caution when opening links sent to you by email. Don’t underestimate how clever hackers are. They could pose as a work colleague, supplier or customer, and could easily trick you into giving out private information or clicking on a harmful link.

If you open an email that seems suspicious, then before taking any action, take time to do some research. Often, the most recent fraudulent emails will be shared in the news to keep people aware.

Educate your staff and customers

It’s not enough for you to be the only person in your business who is educated about malware. Whether your staff are IT technicians or customer service representatives, pretty much everyone is going to play some role in the online running of your business, so it’s essential that they’re aware of how to keep the company’s information safe.

Why not conduct an annual training session to keep people’s memories refreshed? The more people know about malware, the better.

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