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Ever since the emergence of the internet as a new global power for business in the 1990s criminals have been using it as a way to steal data and, more often than not, real-world money.

Fast forward to the 2020s and techniques on both sides of the field have seen extensive developments. On the one hand, you have sophisticated networks of cybercriminals who use complex software to infiltrate networks. On the other, teams of cybersecurity experts that design and build bespoke solutions to stop them.

But what exactly is malware, and how can modern businesses protect against it? In this blog, we’ll be diving into the murky world of malware and explaining how you can keep your sensitive data safe.

What is Malware?

Malware is essentially any type of malicious software which has been designed with the intention to exploit or harm devices and networks. Malware is used to extract data that can then be utilised for reputational damage or financial gain. This includes stealing financial data, personal information or infecting devices in order to control networks.

There are many ways that malware can infect a system - through malicious email attachments, phishing emails, malvertising, forced software installations, and much more. Due to this, a business needs a multi-pronged approach when it comes to malware protection. As a first step, however, it is usual to understand the various different types of malware.

Ransomware

Ransomware is perhaps the most common form of malware and effectively does what it says on the tin. It works by infecting an unsuspecting computer and locating sensitive data that is unprotected. Once the data has been found, the ransomware will encrypt it and demand a financial sum be paid to the hackers for the data to be released. If the ransom demands are not met, the data is wiped for good.

This particular type of malware is most often encountered by large companies with valuable assets. To give an idea of the scale of the problem, by the end of 2021 it is estimated that ransomware will cost the global economy £6 trillion per year.

Spyware

Spyware is another common form of malware. Unlike ransomware, spyware doesn’t tend to make itself known. Instead, once installed it will sit within a computer and gather the victim’s user data. Things like browsing history, account information and login details can all be harvested and relayed back to the criminals behind it. Disturbingly, spyware can also be used to access computer webcams without the victim’s knowledge.

Viruses

Computer viruses are so-called because of their ability to multiply. Once installed on a computer, a virus will begin making copies of itself in order to take over and gain control of a network. Ultimately, viruses can be used to gather data, rewrite hard drives and corrupt entire systems.

Trojans

Trojans, much like their Greek namesakes, infiltrate their targets by disguising themselves as something legitimate. In the case of a trojan virus, this is usually done via a legitimate piece of software. However, when the victim runs said software, the trojan is able to gain access to their data. This then allows cybercriminals to manipulate and harvest sensitive information.

Worms

Similar to viruses, worms exploit weaknesses in computer security systems to corrupt hardware and steal data. However, unlike viruses worms can work independently of a host computer and require a large amount of bandwidth to operate. As a result, when a network falls victim to a worm they often are unable to cope and become unresponsive.

Who Creates Malware?

This is the six trillion dollar question. The people who create these malicious programmes are often highly professional criminals who operate within illegal networks sharing techniques and the software itself. In the early days of malware, it was often created and distributed by amateur pranksters who sought nothing more than to cause disruption. In the modern era, however, amateurs have been replaced by these advanced criminal organisations.

Protecting Against Malware

Perhaps the most important element of understanding malware comes as we look at how to protect against it and prevent it from disrupting both our professional and personal lives.

Firstly, employee awareness is crucial. Anyone who has access to a network containing sensitive data needs to fully understand the risks of malware. At a practical level, this means avoiding clicking links in popups, reducing the number of apps on their devices, and checking for unexpected changes to settings. Awareness of email phishing, in particular, is important - employees should be trained in email threats, avoiding some of the most common routes that malware infects a system. This can include making sure that unknown email attachments aren’t opened, and that personal information isn’t shared via this channel.

Beyond awareness and the usual day-to-day maintenance - such as keeping operating systems and applications updated - protection measures are also needed. One option is using malware protection software that utilises detection methods, scanning for possible malware threats based on data about known malware.

The downside of this option is that such tools won’t uncover novel or unknown malware threats. In this case, you would need a more advanced threat protection tool. By taking a proactive approach and installing preventative software, you will be giving your network the best shot at stopping any malware attacks.

Deep Secure specialise in protecting against and neutralising malicious software that poses a risk to businesses. Our solutions contain Threat Removal technology that is included in a variety of products, each of which is designed for protection against malware. The malware protection software provides protection against both known and zero-day malware and carries a 100% success rate. 

Our range of software solutions enables employees to share documents safely and securely whilst cleaning all incoming emails and other files to ensure safety prior to opening. On top of 100% secure file sharing, it also allows for totally safe and secure web browsing eliminating the possibility of malware getting in via web downloads, uploads, webmail or social media.


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