Downloading is a part of our daily lives. Whether it’s a new software application or a new ebook, we download all the time. Unfortunately, if we’re not careful about what we download, we leave ourselves open to being attacked by cybercriminals.
Malware is short for malicious software and refers to code developed by cyber attackers meant to damage data and systems or give unauthorized access to a network. Usually, what happens is a cybercriminal will attempt to trick you into clicking a link, opening an attachment, or downloading something that looks legitimate but is actually malicious.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your files so you can’t access them. The cyber attacker is essentially holding your files for ransom and will only give them back for a price.
Protecting yourself against both malware and ransomware requires that you:
- use anti-virus software,
- update your operating system regularly,
- use only secure networks,
- be cautious,
- and be aware.
Use Anti-Virus Software
The best malware software is known as anti-virus software. Anti-virus software packages protect against malware and ransomware. They automatically scan the files you download to ensure that they aren’t malicious. They can also be set up to scan your computer regularly, looking for any viruses. Furthermore, many software programs have ransomware-spotting features that identify suspicious file encryption behavior.
Although this software runs in the background, it does need to be managed. You will need to set up automatic scans to run every few days or weeks. This ensures that the software is always checking your device for malicious infiltration.
Update your OS Regularly
The majority of software providers have their own operating systems that include anti-virus defenses. However, as new vulnerabilities are discovered, these systems need to be updated. This usually requires you to restart your system and accept an upgrade to a newer version of your OS. If you neglect to do this, your system will be vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Place your Trust in Secure Networks
We are continually sending our personal information over public networks, making us easy prey for hackers. To keep from being a hacker’s lunch, you must use a wireless network that is WPA or WPA2 encrypted. Furthermore, you should never broadcast your SSID to others, even if they’re your grandparents. Instead, you should create a guest SSID and create different passwords for these people.
Malware comes primarily from downloads, so you need to be wary of anything you download. Make sure you only download from official app stores and reputable websites. Avoid websites that offer pirated material, particularly torrent sites. These sites are chock full of malware. Since most ransomware derives from email, be especially cautious about what email attachments you open and what links you click. Never open an email from someone you don’t recognize. And always scan every file before you download it, using your anti-virus software, even if it was sent from someone you know.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to only visit sites that have an SSL certificate. Websites with this certificate will have a tiny lock symbol on the left side of the URL.
You should also remember that a large part of keeping your personal data secure is up to you. Be cautious about what you post online, and make sure your social media privacy settings are as strict as possible. Furthermore, whenever possible, don’t use your real name or give out any personal details.
Despite all your efforts, malware and ransomware may still end up on your computer. For this reason, you must monitor your device for signs that it’s infected. These signs aren’t always obvious, as many malicious programs run secretly in the background. However, some signs that your device is infected include programs crashing without warning, poor performance, and your computer freezing.
If you believe that your computer is infected, disconnect it immediately from your Wi-Fi network and perform a scan using your anti-virus software.
Additionally, you should try to keep up to date about the latest attacks. For instance, the Cyber Security Division, a branch of Homeland Security, is responsible for analyzing all types of cyber threats, both public and private. They maintain a database of vulnerabilities that you should regularly check to keep yourself updated on new and potential threats.
Malware and ransomware are incredibly prevalent, but they aren’t too hard to avoid. You just need to make sure you take the proper preventative measures. This includes investing in anti-virus software, updating your operating systems regularly, and using only secure wireless networks. You should also practice being cautious about downloads and email attachments and links. Lastly, it’s essential to monitor your devices for infection and keep up to date on the latest cyber threats. If you take these necessary precautions, you will greatly enhance your security and decrease your chances of being a cyber victim.