A Layman's Guide To Malware
The internet is a powerful and wonderful tool. Many of us would be absolutely stranded without it and our business and personal lives would pretty much grind to a halt. Whilst the World Wide Web is undoubtedly extremely useful, it is also a potentially dangerous place and the unwary can all too easily become the victims of the new wave of cyber-crime.
Here, in layman’s terms, is what you and your family need to know to help keep you safe whilst surfing the net.
Malware and Botnets
Viruses are in essence harmful computer programs that can damage your computer. They can be transmitted in various ways and although they differ in the way that they function, they’re all designed to spread to as many computers as possible via the internet, leaving a trail of havoc and devastation in their wake. The objective of viruses is to allow criminals some sort of access to infected computers.
‘Spyware’ and ‘adware’ are terms that can be applied to a number of different technologies. There are two important things that you need to know about them:
- They can be downloaded onto your computer without your permission or knowledge. This usually happens when you visit an unsafe website or open an attachment in an email.
- They can also be extremely intrusive; opening advertisements you don’t want to view or even tracking you online, stealing passwords and other confidential information.
Botnets are computers (or networks of computers) that are controlled remotely by criminals. They contain malware – computer viruses, key-loggers and various other types of malicious software – and are used to attack websites, usually for financial gain.
When your computer becomes infected with botnet malware, it communicates with the cyber criminals’ machines and acts on their instructions. Botnets are typically used to steal information such as credit card numbers, bank details, and other personal information like telephone numbers, addresses and social security numbers. This data is then used to carry out identify theft, fraud, website attacks, spamming and distribution of malware.
- Keep your machine clean! By installing the most up-to-date security software, operating system and browser you will protect yourself against malware, viruses and the like.
- If in doubt, chuck it out! One common way in which mischief-makers and criminals can compromise your computer is through tweets, email links and online advertising. Even if an attachment appears to come from a source you know, never open it or download anything if it looks remotely suspicious. The best thing to do is to mark such communications as junk, leave them unopened and then delete them.
- Don’t forget other devices. It’s not just your computer that could be vulnerable to attack by cyber criminals; any device that connects to the internet could be at risk. Laptops, smart phones, gaming systems and tablets all need protection from malware and viruses.
- Plug and scan. Another potential source of attack are USBs and other external pieces of hardware. These can also be infected by malware and viruses that could get into your computer. Always use up-to-date security to scan them.
So you see, staying safe online doesn’t need to be technically challenging if you follow a few basic guidelines and keep your machine clean. Make it a regular habit to update your security software and operating system and be vigilant around your email inbox.
Image source: ITPro