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How to Protect Yourself from Malware in the Covid Era

Protect Yourself from Malware

The latest malware statistics show that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to shape cybercrime in 2020. The rise in malware attacks during the pandemic can be attributed to an increased online dependency for people around the world. A lot of businesses and organizations are implementing remote networks and systems to support their employees working from home.

The lack of corporate security controls at home has made it easy for hackers to deploy and execute malware. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the increased vulnerabilities to cause disruption and steal data. Malware authors have revised their usual attack vectors. They are deploying Covid-19 themed phishing emails to trick users into downloading harmful programs. We have also seen malware disguised as contact tracing apps.

As the number of Covid cases rises again in the US and across the world, individuals and businesses should be wary of rampant malware to go along with the spreading virus.

Types of Malware

To effectively defend against malware, you need to familiarize yourself with common malware threats. Short for malicious software, malware refers to any computer program designed to harm your computer. Malware can exploit your system to steal, encrypt, or delete sensitive information; change or hijack core system functions; introduce spam or forced advertising; or monitor user activity without permission.

Types of Malware

There are many types of malware to watch out for in the Covid-19 era. These include:

Worms

Worms are the most common type of malware. They are designed to modify and delete files, steal data, and create a backdoor for cybercriminals. Worms can replicate themselves without being attached to a program or run by the user. These self-replicating threats are commonly spread via phishing attacks and software vulnerabilities.

Viruses

Viruses are the oldest type of malware. Viruses alter core system functions. A virus can replicate itself and spread to other computers but unlike worms, a virus must be attached to another program or executed by user action to replicate. Viruses are commonly spread via email attachments, file sharing, or infected websites in the form of an executable file.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware designed to collect information about a user without their knowledge. Once installed, the software will collect personal information such as passwords, usernames, financial data, and browsing habits. Spyware can also allow cybercriminals to watch and eavesdrop on their targets through cameras and microphones.

Adware

Another common form of malware, adware, automatically delivers ads to generate revenue for its author or a third party. Adware is designed to serve pop-up and display advertisements that have no relevance to the user. This type of malware is commonly used in conjunction with spyware. Adware infects your device via browser vulnerability.

Ransomware

Ransomware is one of the biggest cyber threats in the Covid-19 era. This type of malware encrypts system files and locks users out of their devices until a ransom is paid. The attackers will often threaten to publish or delete the data if the victim fails to come through with the payment. Ransomware is mainly spread through phishing.

Ways to Increase Protection Against Malware

Personal data protection vector concept metaphor

As you can see, there are many variations of malware in the digital world. Malware can do a lot of damage to your system. It can bypass access controls, steal data, alter system functions, and otherwise cause harm to your system. That’s why you need to take proactive steps to keep malware out of your desktop computer, laptop, or mobile device. Here are a few effective ways to increase protection against malware.

Install Antivirus

Install Antivirus

Antivirus/antimalware programs can scan computer files to identify and remove malicious programs. Installing a reputable antivirus program is the first step towards keeping your system secure and free of malware. A good antivirus program will periodically scan your computer and immediately remove detected malware.

Enable Firewall

A firewall serves as the first line of defence against external threats (such as malware) trying to gain access to your systems and data. It monitors incoming traffic and blocks any threats immediately. Enable a firewall on your device to enhance protection against malware. Enabling the firewall on your computer will block malware threats before they cause any damage to your system.

Employ Email Security Tools

Scan-Email

Email is a common attack vector used by online threat actors to deliver viruses, ransomware, spyware, and other online threats. Email scanning technology allows individuals and businesses to review every email to check for malware and spam automatically. Set spam filters and scan all incoming emails, including attachments, to reduce the risk of infection.

Use a VPN

VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most important tools when it comes to cybersecurity. You need to protect your connection from malicious threat actors lurking on the internet, especially when using public Wi-Fi, and that’s what a VPN is for. A VPN acts as a safe passage between your computer and the webserver you are trying to access. Using a VPN can protect you from malware distributed on public Wi-Fi networks. 

Create a Backup

Create a Backup

Having a reliable backup strategy is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from malware. A backup will help you recover from an attack and restore your system to its original state in the event of an attack. When backing up your data, keep sensitive material off the internet in portable hard drives. If you must send data via email or FTP, make sure you use encryption.

Keep Your Software Up to Date

software update

Malware authors are constantly releasing newer, more advanced threats to exploit weaknesses in your system. Software providers release regular updates to patch vulnerabilities that might be exploited by newer threats. Keep your operating system and apps up to date to ensure protection. Also, make sure that your antivirus software has the latest malware definitions through regular updates.

Malware attacks have increased drastically since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The unprecedented rise in malware attacks is attributable to increased online dependency for people around the world.  People are spending more time online, which has significantly expanded the surface of attack. More people are also working from home due to the pandemic. Weaker security controls at home have made it easy for hackers to deploy and execute malware.

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2 Comments

  • Faisal Rehman
    January 10, 2021

    Thank you summerizing all of that, luckily I have updated my plugins and performed other updates as well.

    • Enaan Farhan
      January 10, 2021

      You are welcome.

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