Malware, or malicious software, is a computer program that sophisticated cyber criminals install on your computer or device to gain access to your personal information and online activities. These cyber attackers make a profit by selling your device’s stolen information, sending spam emails and even preventing a user from accessing their own files until a ransom is paid. Contrary to popular belief, malware is able to infect any device or system including Windows and Mac computers, tablets and smartphones, making everyone a target. Additionally, preventing today’s cyber criminals has become more challenging as some work alone, with criminal groups or even with government organizations.
Consider the following tips to protect yourself from malware attacks:
- Install anti-virus or anti-malware software from trusted companies on your devices. These programs are designed to detect and stop malicious behavior. However, they cannot stop everything, as cyber criminals are constantly evolving and updating their products. It is important to take steps beyond investing in an anti-malware program to protect your system.
- Keep your operating systems, applications and devices up to date. As computers or devices with vulnerable software are main targets for cyber criminals, enabling your system to update automatically is key to preventing a cyber attack.
- Be cautious of downloading and installing unfamiliar mobile applications. Cyber attackers often infect mobile devices by tricking people into downloading and installing fake applications. To prevent cyber attacks on your mobile device, only install mobile applications from trusted online stores that have been posted for a long period of time, downloaded by many people and have positive reviews.
- Use a standard, limited privilege account on computers. Enabling this kind of account as opposed to a privileged account such as “Administrator” or “root” can provide protection from certain types of self-installing malware.
- Be suspicious of opening emails with strange content. Cyber criminals can send you seemingly legitimate emails disguised as your friend or bank containing an attachment or link which, when opened, will install malware on your device. Use common sense and beware of content that is confusing, urgent or too good to be true.
- Backup, backup, backup. Regularly backing up your system and files on a cloud-based service or using a disconnected external drive to store your backups offline can protect your personal information from malware invasions. Backups often serve as the sole way to recover your files once attacked by a cyber criminal.
To learn more about malware and how to protect yourself and your devices, visit the following link: https://securingthehuman.sans.org/newsletters/ouch/issues/OUCH-201603_en.pdf.