It’s in the name – malware, quite simply, means malicious software. That should tell you most of what you need to know about how dangerous it is, but here we’re going to tell you exactly what malware is, how much damage can it do, and how you can protect yourself against it. In Microsoft’s own words: “[malware] is a catch-all term to refer to any software designed to cause damage to a single computer, server, or computer network.” It can come in the form of viruses, trojans, and other forms of computer programs used by hackers to get into your computer. Luckily, there are anti-virus protection systems to stop malware from getting into your computer and causing chaos, and we’ll outline a few of those systems here for you.
What is malware?
As we’ve briefly explained above, malicious software gets into your computer and, when that happens, it’s not good news. Malware is created by hackers most often looking to make money; however, it can be used as a protest tool or even as a political weapon. Malware comes in many different forms, and this is just a brief list:
- Viruses – perhaps the most commonly known type of malware, viruses can cause untold damage to computers by infecting hard drives and deleting files. They most often come in the form of executable files (.exe.).
- Trojans – taking their name from the classic Trojan horse story, this malware hides on your computer as a decoy, inviting in other malicious software.
- Spyware – intended to spy on you, this malware steals bank account information, looks at websites you visit, and much more.
- Adware – most of the time adware is just seriously annoying, but it can undermine your security, allowing other malware to get into your system.
- Ransomware – as the name suggests, this malware can lock down your computer and threaten to destroy it unless you pay a ransom.
How much damage can malware do?
The damage done by malware depends largely on the type of network it has infected (i.e. home or corporate) and the type of malware at work. On a home computer, the damage will often come in the form of stolen bank details or perhaps personal images you may not want spread on the world wide web. When it comes to corporate networks, this could involve the theft of extremely sensitive data on a large scale, or the shutdown of the entire network thereby affecting the corporation’s ability to do its job. Either way, malware is something you really do not want ruining your day (or a week, or month) so it’s vital you take steps to stop it from happening.
Protect yourself against malware
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against malware, even before you install antivirus software. These include:
- Keeping your computer and software updated
- Think carefully before downloading files or clicking on links you aren’t sure about
- Similarly, only open email attachments and images if you are sure of the source
- Don’t download software from strange pop-ups on your computer
- Limit your file sharing
If you remember all of the above steps, you’ll give yourself a very good chance of avoiding infection through malware. The next step is to install decent antivirus software as a last defense. This allows you to scan downloads and other files before opening them. Here are some of the best antivirus programs on the market:
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus – only available on Windows, this has lots of features including a password manager, and is currently on offer for $29.99
- Norton AntiVirus Plus – one of the cheaper options at £14.99 a year, this is Norton’s entry-level protection and has stood the test of time
- Avira Antivirus Pro – even cheaper at just £7.99 per year, this protection doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some higher packages, but it does the job of keeping your computer protected
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus – a great starter package that is incredibly easy to use and just £22.49 per year
Hopefully, we’ve impressed upon you just how damaging malware can be, and how important it is to keep yourself protected.