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Your Guide to Understanding Malware

If you have a computer (and who doesn’t?), you’ve most likely heard of malware before. In fact, it’s very likely that you have been affected by malware in some way without even knowing it.

But what exactly is this mysterious “malware”? It certainly sounds scary, and it really can be, so let’s explore the topic to answer those questions and more.

In this article, we will not provide just an overview of what malware is and how it affects your computer, but we’ll also discuss some steps you can take to protect yourself from malware attacks.

What is malware and how does it affect your computer?

Malicious software – also known as malware, is a type of software that is designed to damage or disable computers and computer systems. Malware can cause all sorts of problems on your computer from slowing it down to stealing your data, or even locking you out of your system. Sometimes, it can happen that we see some malware creeping into our system, harmful enough to try and get rid of it. However, while doing so we accidentally remove a necessary file for registry entries or windows updates.

When we talk about different types of malware, we can typically split them into two different groups: malicious software and unwanted software. Malicious software is designed specifically to make your computer suffer. Unwanted software, on the other hand, is not designed to cause damage deliberately – instead, it can be seen as a form of advertising that typically tries to trick users into buying certain products.

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It can include viruses, ransomware, spyware and Trojan horses, among other types of malicious programs. In some cases, if you don’t recognize it on time, malware can even damage or destroy your computer’s hardware. It sounds like a big problem, but it’s very easy to prevent if you are cautious enough. So, keep your eyes open and don’t  let malware sneak into your life.

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What are the most prevalent types of malware?

There are many different types of malware, but some of the most prevalent include viruses, ransomware, spyware and Trojans. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

  • Viruses are probably the most well-known type of malware. They are self-replicating programs that can infect your computer and spread to other devices. You’ve probably  come across a virus before when you receive an email from someone and clicking on it starts causing your computer to run programs you didn’t ask for.
  • Ransomware is a type of virus that can affect any device that runs on a computer system, including your mobile phone or tablet. It locks you out of your computer or mobile device until you pay a ransom. It’s hard to remove it from your device and it can be very costly to repair the damage, especially if you do not have a backup.
  • Spyware is another common form of malware. It’s a software that tracks your online activity and steals your personal information. You have to be very careful with  it because it can be difficult to remove from your device too. Some types of spyware have been known to send personal information like usernames and passwords, so  it’s important to know how to protect yourself from it.
  • Finally, Trojans are created with a specific goal in mind: to deceive you into disclosing sensitive information. They often pretend to be something they are not; like an email attachment or a legitimate-looking link on social media. Once you click them, they start running automatically, often without your knowledge.
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How does it work?

Malware is usually spread through the Internet, email attachments and file downloads unless it has been installed on your system as a result of an exploit such as buffer overflows or protocol mishandling. That’s why you should keep in mind before opening any kind of file you got from someone you hardly know, such as attachments or links, there is a huge possibility that the sender’s email is hacked and the links they send you are not really from them.

Another thing that can happen, and probably there is a higher chance of this happening, is that the person who sent you an uncalled-for file or link has actually opened his or her system to malware himself. It might be the case that the sender has an outdated anti-malware software and it didn’t detect anything suspicious when downloading files, so everything seemed okay. But after you open the downloaded file on your system, all the existing security mechanisms are bypassed because of this old piece of software that is already outdated.

How to protect yourself from malware?

There are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from malware:

  • Keep your computer up to date with the latest software updates. This will help to keep your computer safe from known malware threats. Sometimes, it can happen that you don’t believe that you need an update, but the truth is that system updates not only fix existing bugs and vulnerabilities, they also prevent new ones.
  • Install a good antivirus program and make sure to keep it up to date. This will help to detect and remove any malware that may have infected your computer. It’s very important that  you choose a reputable antivirus program, because there are many out there that don’t do their job properly.
  • Don’t click on links sent to you by strangers or people you don’t know. Be careful when opening emails and attachments, especially if they are from unknown or suspicious sources. Do not open any files that you do not trust because  you can never know whether it’s safe or not.
  • Make sure you have a firewall enabled on your computer and that it is up to date. This will help to prevent malicious software from infecting your computer and  blocking you out, but it will not be helpful if your system gets infected by a virus that uses a network connection to spread.
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As a conclusion, we can say that malware can be very scary and can cause costly damage, especially if it compromises your online banking accounts or any other important information that you may have stored on your computer. However, we have also covered  that there are quite a few simple things that you can do to keep yourself safe from malware, so make sure to use them regularly if you want your computer to remain secure.

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