What is Malware and How Can it Cripple Your Business?

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What is Malware and How Can it Cripple Your Business?

malwareHave you heard of malware? Even the name sounds ominous. There’s a reason for that; malware is any sort of malicious software, designed to steal your private data, take over your computer system, and corrupt your devices. It’s truly bad news and can wreak havoc on business operations if left uncontrolled.

No one wants to have to deal with malicious software but what steps can we take to avoid its inception and how do we deal with its effects? We set out to answer some of the most common (and important) questions regarding malware for business owners.

What Exactly is Malware?

Part of the confusion surrounding malware is caused by the many different types of malicious software that exist. Malware may riddle your computer screen with advertisements, demand that you pay a set fee to regain access, or make it difficult to use your computer in general. It’s been around since the 1990s and sadly, shows no sign of slowing down.

A better question might be, “What is not malware?” A bad piece of code or faulty software is not malware. For something to be categorized as malicious software, it has to be designed to destroy, corrupt, or disrupt. Otherwise, it might just be defective.

Where Does Malware Come From?

Malware can come from many different sources, one of the most common being spam. You receive an email, download the attachment, and bam, your computer is infected.

Here’s the thing about emails contain malware; they don’t all look the same. You might receive an email from an unknown sender that looks like total junk and delete it or you might find what looks like a legitimate business offer in your inbox. These cyber criminals are crafty and sophisticated enough to trick even the savviest of users.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I never download unexpected attachments and neither no my employees so we’ll probably never have to deal with malware.” Not so fast. This stuff is sneaky and can make its way onto your computer through flash drives and external hard drives.

If your co-worker’s computer is infected and you use a flash drive to pass his files onto your computer, you just might catch the malware bug as well. Malware also pops up on websites even ones that appear completely legitimate. If the cyber criminals can hack a website, they’ll do what it takes to infect your computer just for having the misfortune of the visiting the page.

Software is also a common source of malware infection. When you download a third-party source of software online, you may find that it attempts to download multiple unwanted accessories. They may very well contain malware.

Why Is Malware So Prevalent and What Damage Does It Cause?

Believe it or not, malware is a booming business. Cyber criminals typically use malware for two purposes: to collect your private data or demand ransom. With your confidential information, these thieves can hack into your bank accounts, max out your credit cards, and steal your identity. If they’re not into doing the dirty work themselves, they’ll sell your information to whoever is buying online.

Ransomware is a particularly disturbing form of malware. It renders your computer useless but locking and encrypting your files until you pay a ransom. However, paying up doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your money back as you may just find the criminals up the amount for their own benefit.

As you can imagine the aftermath of a malware attack isn’t pretty. It may include the following:

  • Slow and dysfunctional computer operations
  • Exposure of private information (including that of your clients)
  • Locked files
  • Threats of blackmail and police involvement (most commonly seen with ransomware)
  • Theft

How Can I Protect My Business From Malware?

Protecting your business from malware requires education, adherence to best practices, and vigilance. You can take the first step right now by sharing what you’ve learned about malware with your partners and employees. Many people are unaware of the consequences of downloading a seemingly benign email attachment or third-party software bundle.

Educate your staff on the following best practices:

  • Never download an unexpected email attachment or one from an unknown sender
  • Avoid following suspicious links to website shared by email or social media
  • Only use official software
  • Read through anything you install or download first
  • Keep your software up-to-date
  • Perform security scans on external drives before using them

At Prudential Associates, we understand that becoming an expert in preventing malware is probably not at the top of your to-do list. Allow us to provide personalized security consulting and risk management  solutions, which protect your business and make it easy to reach your goals. To learn more, contact our team today.