Grant McGregor News

Which Strategies Are Best to Protect Against Malware?

March 29 2016

Today’s desktops, tablets, laptops and android phones are under constant attack from malware and ransomware, and it’s enough to put you on edge, worried about which websites you’ve visited and whether they were safe. How can you use any of devices with confidence? How can you browse for both work and play, safely, and safe in the knowledge that your computer won’t succumb to the latest, pernicious virus?

Today we’re going to be looking at what you can do to protect your laptops, smartphones, tablets and PCs from malware and ransomware, so you can use your devices more safely whenever you like.

Firstly, before we look at some of the best strategies to protect your devices, let’s look exactly at what it is your up against.

 

Malware

You may have heard of the word malware, and it’s used to describe something that is programmed to disrupt, attack and gain access to your device. There are different types of malware, ransomware, viruses, worms that can use malicious code to get into your device. And it’s relentless, if it can’t do it today, it’ll try again tomorrow and malware is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Although malware started out as relatively benign pranks it eventually graduated to something far more sophisticated, with vandalism, control or destruction of any device it could target. Its goal was and still is, to steal valuable information, extort money, or spread harmful applications.

And just because malware infects your computer today, it may lie in wait for an opportunity to act when you least expect it or do its dirty deeds quietly in the background without being obvious to you.

If there’s any defect in your operation system, or if all your devices run off the same one, then you could be more vulnerable. Windows can be vulnerable to attack due to its popularity, so you need to be extra vigilant, but other types of operating systems are vulnerable too.

 

Malware – what strategies do you need to take to avoid an attack on your computer?

There are many different types of malware out there including Trojans, Worms, Adware and Spyware as well as ransomware, which we will talk about separately.

Viruses – a virus can self-replicate, once it gets in to your computer, it can spread out and reach many other files. It can be difficult to remove too because of its self-replicating native.

Trojans – A Trojan can’t make copies of itself, so you could argue that it isn’t actually a virus. However, it was named after the Greek Trojan horse and it has a very sophisticated application which opens a door into your computer. Like other viruses, it takes the information you have in your computer.

Worms – They can self-replicate and unlike other viruses, it can actually spread to other people not on your computer. They can access your contact lists on your computer and then send messages to them, messages which are infected with the same virus.

Spyware – Once its entered your system, spyware will simply sit there in your computer and spy on you. It can take your credit card and bank account details, and anything else valuable it can use. It can sometimes sneak in with other software which means you could install it without even knowing.

Adware – It’s similar in nature to spyware, it displays adverts that will eventually slow your computer to a standstill. What’s worse, it can sometimes display content for over 18s which can be quite explicit, and naturally if your children see this, it’s upsetting.

The best overall strategy to combat malware for this is to invest in a complete suite of security tools as layers of defence that provide internet security, email security and virus and spyware scanners. You can get some basic ones for free, however investing in a good quality antivirus programme is probably going to be the best thing you invest in, and if you’re an organisation it’s crucial. Once your computer is infected – it’s game over.

 

Ransomware

What exactly is ransomware, and how dangerous is it?

Basically your device is held ransom until you give the attackers what they want. Your device is targeted by the attacker, and it can be anything, your laptop, smartphone, or PC and then its locked using a data encryption key which means that the data is ‘scrambled’ so that you can’t use it. And surprise, surprise, the attacker will be demanding money in return for the key to unlock your device and your data. Yes, it’s crafty and almost impregnable once it has its hands on your device.

Ransomware is, therefore, a type of malware, just a different kind. Nobody is immune, and once it has a grip on your computer it’s almost impossible to escape it! Organisations, businesses and individuals are all targets for Ransomware attackers.

 

Ransomware – what you can do to stop it attacking your computer

Ransomware, regardless of who created it, or which device it affects, has one clear aim. It is there to stop the user from accessing his or her now encrypted system with a demand for payment, where a limited number of hours are given until the ransom is paid – usually in Bitcoin.

As we have already seen, ransomware is one of the worst types of malware out there, denying access to your data and your system until the attackers get what they want. They’ve been around for a while and they’re more dangerous now than ever.

 

What you need to do is to stay vigilant and aware and keep up with any latest ransomware trends. Securing your data and operations systems can be done by:

• Making sure you carefully check each email before opening

• Don’t click on links found in emails that you’re unsure of

• Any email from an unverified source, usually found in your junk mail is to be avoided unless you were expecting it and it’s from a trustworthy source. Sometimes valid emails can land in your junk mail, but beware of anything else you find in there

• Be super aware of sites that ask you to enter a CAPTCHA code, it could be linked to ransomware, check the validity and authenticity of the site you’re entering

• Ensure you have a reliable back up of all your files – if you are affected, at least you’ll be able to retrieve and recover your important information

• Update your current software, applications and programmes regularly

• Use a layered protection suite that can give you the protection your computer needs

Doing something like this can really protect your computer and stop malware from entering your system. Security solutions are an important part of your computer maintenance against online threats, so it’s well worth the investment.

 

If you’re an organisation then you should follow good practice around using operating systems and any software, making sure that you have virus and malware protection and that they are up to date, and of course, naturally make sure you carry out regular back-ups.

Your staff should be made aware of the dangers of malware and ransomware and be given regular updates and IT security sessions where they’re educated about the risks to their devices from malware and ransomware. They should have this type of IT awareness training on a regular basis, and be updated as soon as possible about any new threats they should be aware of.

 

Back up your files – it’s an important part of a well thought out IT security strategy

In summary, we can’t emphasise enough how important it is to back up your files. No matter how vigilant we are, there’s always going to be that one time when a virus gets into your system, and if you haven’t back up your files, then you won’t see them again.

Here at Grant McGregor all our team are knowledgeable and educated in malware protection and ensure that everything we do is well thought out and securely executed to protect, not just ourselves, but our clients. All our software solutions are secure and safe for all our clients to use, so you have peace of mind.

It’s all part of the IT Security Services we offer to clients. Check whether your level of protection is adequate against our 15 Point Security Checklist. Get your copy here.

Get in touch if you have any queries about what we’ve talked about today, we’ll be happy to help.

 

Image source: Easy Security Online

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