The Growing Threat of Malware Delivered Via Email or Websites
Malware is the term used to describe a wide range of harmful software, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware and adware. The effects of having it on your computer can vary. Whilst some malware simply causes annoyance, other pieces of harmful software are designed to destroy your data and even steal your identity.
Today the majority of malware is delivered via emails and websites and with an increasing number of people using the internet to enjoy the January sales, it is the optimal time for cyber criminals to strike. Malware is easier to avoid than it is to remove from your computer and the best way to prevent your PC from getting infected is to be a savvy-internet user. You don’t need expert knowledge or special training in order to avoid malware – you simply need to follow the tips outlined below.
Malware delivered via websites
One of the main ways malware is delivered is in the form of website downloads. If when you click on a website, you are asked to download a program, be very wary. If you are unsure, leave the website and do a Google search of the program it is asking you to download. If it is legitimate then you should be safe to go back and download it. However, if in any doubt, do not re-visit the website as it may be asking you to download malware.
Malware delivered via websites are known as drive by downloads, here at Grant McGregor we have seen many of these. These can appear on websites that cyber criminals have set up for the purpose of infecting people’s computers but they can also appear on legitimate websites that have been compromised. This is why you need to take extra care when using all websites (including social media websites) especially if they ask you to download a program or install a plugin.
Malware delivered via email
Unfortunately at this time of year your inbox is probably rife with email scams. Many cyber criminals pose as ecommerce stores, customers and even banks to try and get you to click on their link or download an attachment containing malware.
Do not trust any emails that appear in your spam box and be very wary of the emails you open in your inbox. If you are at all suspicious of an email, have a look at the address to see whom it has come from (you can always Google the email address to see if it’s been reported as spam). If the email address looks dodgy (lots of numbers and mixed characters / free email account) do not click on the link it has sent you or download any attachments. A cloud based email spam filtering service is also ideal for filtering out emails which harbour malware.
If you are savvy and take a cautious approach to going through your inbox, you should find it pretty easy to spot email scams. Usually their email address will give it away but another common sign is that they will not address the email to your name, instead putting something like ‘Dear user.’ If this is the case, do not click on the link they have sent you, as it will usually be a fake website that has been designed to steal your login details. In the same respect, you should not download or open any attachments sent to you, as they are likely to be malware that will harm your computer.
If you have anti-virus software on your computer, you should be able to scan all attachments before opening them. Do not skip this important step!
Educating yourself and those around you is the best form of protection against malware. In the workplace, it is highly recommended that you provide employees with a list of warning signs to look out for and ensure they understand the risks associated with malware. Taking a more cautious approach to opening email attachments and avoiding drive-by download attacks is the best way to keep your IT systems in a healthy and secure condition. If you need any further advice please contact us here at Grant McGregor on 0131 603 7910, we are always happy to help!
Don’t forget to forward this article to your colleagues and acquaintances so that they can benefit from this practical help!