How to Prevent Malware Attacks
by Serena Raymond on May 27, 2021 12:00:00 AM
Here’s a startling statistic: did you know that one in every 13 web requests leads to malware? Cyber criminals and malicious threat actors spread malware using infected links in emails, downloadable files, and websites. Given how prevalent this threat is for internet users, we’ve put together an overview of malware: what it is, how it spreads, and how to prevent malware attacks from happening to you.
What is Malware?
If software causes damage to your device, server, or network, it’s always one of two things: a software bug or malware. If the harm was intentional, it’s malware. If it was accidental, it’s classified as a bug. Malware, the shortened term for “malicious software,” includes everything from viruses, ransomware, adware, trojans, worms, and a host of hybrid programs. They’re designed to target vulnerabilities in order to gain access to your network.
How Prevalent is Malware?
In 2010, malware was responsible for over 5.8 million cybersecurity breaches worldwide. In 2020, that number skyrocketed to 5.6 billion attacks. Unfortunately, malware is not only a common cybersecurity threat, but an effective one. The average cost of a malware attack perpetrated on an organization is $2.4 million. In addition to financial losses, malware attacks set companies back an average of 50 days. Think of everything you have going on at work at this moment. Now imagine you won’t be able to finish any of it for 50 days.
How Does Malware Spread?
As we’ve mentioned, malware targets weak spots in order to penetrate your security defenses. Some may imagine these vulnerabilities to be unpatched programs or small snippets of code, but the reality is that most of the time, it’s your users who pose the biggest threat. In fact, it’s human error that causes 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches.
Malware spreads in a variety of ways. Cyber criminals are continuously finding new ways in which to infect unsuspecting networks. The most common methods of distribution, however, are through infected websites and apps, internet pop-ups posing as fake advertisements, and email attachments.
If your users download software from the internet, there’s a chance it contains hidden malware. If they visit a website that has a malware infection, they could unknowingly compromise their device. If they come across a pop-up or click on a fake error message, they could trigger a malware download. If they’re the target of a phishing scam, they may click a malicious link or open a malware program posing as a harmless email attachment.
How to Prevent Malware Attacks
Malware, and the cyber criminals behind them, are growing more sophisticated by the day. To make matters worse, 230,000 new malware samples are created each and every day. Malware prevention, therefore, is crucial, because the damage brought about by a malware attack can cripple your company. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Luckily, there are ways to protect your network from malware. Powerful IT security tools, machine learning, and user education all work to combat malicious forces.
Six Tips on How to Prevent Malware Exposure
1. Keep your devices up-to-date.
Software (and hardware) updates are important for malware prevention because they provide critical patches to known vulnerabilities. It’s a good practice to install new operating system updates (as well as software updates) because the latest version is best equipped to handle current malware threats.
2. Use antivirus software.
Antivirus software is also known as “anti-malware,” since it protects against a host of malicious activities, not merely computer viruses. If you’re looking for malware protection, one of the easiest ways to bolster your defenses is to use antivirus software. Of course, not every digital threat can be prevented with antivirus software alone, so it’s best to have a multi-solution approach to your IT security.
3. Be wary of email attachments.
Roughly 92 percent of malware is delivered by email. Whether the threat is hidden within email attachments, images, or fraudulent links, cyber criminals lean heavily on email transmission. About 30 percent of all phishing targets open malicious emails, and 11 percent of those will go on to click a malicious link or attachment.
4. Use good judgement with downloads and links.
Apps and downloads are the most common method hackers use to spread malware. Be cognizant of what you’re downloading (and where the download is coming from). Avoid downloading software from pop-up windows, and be sure to hover over a link before clicking on it to make sure you’re being sent to a reputable website.
5. Give your employees their own logins.
Rather than provide your team with a singular administrative login for an application or platform, take the time to create user accounts for each member. Depending upon their role, assign different settings and provide access only to the information/accounts they need.
6. Secure your web browsing.
Over 18 million websites are infected with malware at a given time each week. Even with built-in browser protection, you’re at a high risk of malware exposure on the internet. Ensure that your browser (as well as any plugins you use) are updated as needed. Use ad blockers to prevent unwanted pop-ups. Additionally, DNS protection and content filters can be set up to further reduce the likelihood that you’ll stumble across a website infected with malware.
How DNS Security Can Reduce Malware Exposure
When it comes to securing your web activity, the best course of action is to establish a secure DNS. Protective DNS services implement safety measures that automatically prevent your users from accessing dangerous web material. Secure DNS filtering can be the difference between a normal day at work and a data breach.
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