Cyber attacks are on the rise, and one of the main reasons for this trend is malware. It’s a constant threat to businesses of all sizes and can cause serious damage if the proper security measures are not in place. But what is malware and how does it work?
Malware, short for ‘malicious software’ is the collective term used to describe any malicious program or code that is harmful to systems. It can infect PCs, tablets, smartphones, and equipment; basically any device with computing capabilities.
There has been a huge growth in malware in recent years, and in the first half of 2022, SonicWall threat researchers recorded 2.8 billion malware hits globally, an 11% increase on the same period in 2021.
The reality is that malware is a booming business which is proving hugely profitable for cybercriminals. They can use it to steal data, extort money, or launch further attacks. It’s also behind the ransomware attacks that are crippling companies across the world.
In fact, just this week, the National Cyber Security Centre and Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau warned Irish business owners that they’ve noticed an increasing trend of small and medium-sized businesses being targeted by ransomware groups.
In the past, these groups typically targeted larger organisations, but it appears their focus has shifted. Hackers will often follow the path of least resistance, which is why we’re seeing more and more smaller businesses being targeted with this type of threat.
If you want to protect your business from cyber attacks, you need to be aware of the dangers of malware and take steps to protect your devices and networks.
How does malware work?
For malware to work, it usually needs you to perform an action that causes the malware to download. This might be opening an attachment, visiting a malicious website, or clicking on a link or pop-up. Once the malware has been installed, it will infect your device and start making unauthorised changes to the system. This could include blocking access to files, monitoring your behaviour, bombarding you with pop-up ads or installing additional malware.
What are the most common types of malware?
Not all malware types are created equally, some are undoubtedly more dangerous than others. Below are some of the most common types of malware:
Virus – Viruses are designed to spread rapidly across programs and systems. Once a victim unwittingly opens an infected file, the virus replicates itself from folder to folder.
Worms –The main objective of a worm is to spread and infect as many computers as possible. It’s like a virus but doesn’t require the same human interaction to spread across systems.
Trojans – Trojans are often disguised as harmless applications to trick users into downloading them. Once installed, Trojans can steal personal data, spy on activities, crash a device or download additional malware.
Ransomware – One of the most popular and destructive forms of malware is ransomware. This type of malware installs itself onto a victim’s machine, encrypts their files, and then demands a ransom payment to unlock the data.
Adware – Adware is a type of malware that spams you with ads to generate money for the attacker. Common types of adware include free games or browser toolbars.
Spyware – Spyware is used to secretly spy on your online activities. It hides quietly in the background monitoring your keystrokes and browsing habits.
How to Protect your Business from Malware
The best way to stop malware in its tracks is to have the proper security protocols and measures in place. Below are some steps you can take to protect your business:1. Regularly Update Your Systems, Software, and Applications
One of the most common ways that hackers can gain access to your system is by inserting dangerous malware through unpatched security holes. This is exactly what happened in the infamous 2017 WannaCry attack when attackers exploited unpatched vulnerabilities in servers operating Windows 7 and 8. A fix for these vulnerabilities became available in the months preceding the attack but many organisations failed to update their software. To reduce the chance of malware sneaking its way onto your system, your business must apply these patches as soon as they become available.2. Backup Data
When it comes to business, data is everything. The best defence against malware is being able to restore data from clean backups. This means that in the event of an attack, your business can quickly restore data without any costly downtime. It’s also good practice to keep your data encrypted so that hackers cannot decipher any data the malware infects. Backups should be conducted regularly, and you should have 3 copies of your data stored in two different storage formats (with at least one copy located offsite).3. Strict Access Control
Access to trusted applications should be limited to users who really need it. Effectively, this means that staff should only be granted enough access to do their jobs and nothing more. That way if malware attacks a single machine, it will have a harder time infecting the entire system.4. Educate Your Staff
Your employees are your first line of defence against cybercrime, and if they’re not trained on how to identify and avoid malware, you could be putting your company at risk. Staff should learn to be suspicious of links and attachments in emails, even ones that look authentic. By continually training staff on evolving threats, you can help reduce the risk that they’ll be tricked by a phishing scam or other tactics used to introduce malware into your network.5. Multiple Layers of Security
To protect your business from malware attacks, you need multiple layers of security. Having a firewall in place to safeguard and monitor access to your network is crucial in preventing unauthorised access to your systems and data. Other layers of security include installing Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, and Anti-Ransomware software. Combined, these provide a strong defence against malware and other cyber threats.
Partner with a Trusted Managed Service Provider
Defending your business against malware can be a time-consuming and challenging task. By partnering with a trusted MSP, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your IT infrastructure and systems are being maintained and monitored 24/7.
At Ortus, we work with hundreds of businesses to help keep their systems safe and secure. Using advanced security solutions and round-the-clock monitoring and detection, we make sure everything runs smoothly, so clients don’t have to worry about downtime or security breaches. For further information on how we can help protect your business from malware attacks, get in touch today.
To find out more about malware and the other cyber threats that pose a risk to your business, download your free copy of the Mid-Year 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report.