Cybercrime is increasing every year as attackers are getting better at attacking. Cybercriminals try to exploit the weaknesses in an organization’s cybersecurity solutions, policies, or procedures.
Attackers can infiltrate an IT system in many ways, but most cyberattacks rely on pretty similar techniques. The most common type of cyberattack is malware.
What Is Malware?
Malware is a type of application used to obtain unauthorized access to your data. Malware can do things such as create persistent network access, access information such as your personal account or banking details, or cause disruptions on the machine (e.g., locking up your screen, forcing you to reboot).
Malicious software can fall into many categories. Trojans are designed to steal bank information, and malware contains spyware that is installed on your PC. One of the most notable examples of malware designed to extort the victim is ransomware - a kind of malicious software that infects your computer or mobile device then encrypts some files, making them unreadable until you pay the ransom!
Objectives of the Malware
Malware is created with a specific objective. The objective of malware is limited only by the imagination of the one behind the said malicious software.
The following are some of the most common objectives observed in malware:
- Disrupt operations
There are several ways in which criminals can sabotage a company from the inside out. They can infect systems with malware, corrupt critical OS files, and disrupt or even completely shut down computer programs that provide specific functionality. Another typical attack called a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) involves taking control of multiple computers via malware, which is used to overwhelm one machine at a time by flooding the system with more traffic than it can handle all at once.
- Exfiltrate information
It is common for cybercriminals to try and steal personal information, credit card numbers, payment details, and credentials. Malware focused on this type of theft can be greatly expensive to a company, person, or government target that falls victim.
- Demand payment
Some viruses are focused on directly extorting money from the target. Many different kinds of malware pop up every day, thinking they can trick you into giving them your hard-earned cash. One common type of unethical software is scareware. Scareware takes advantage of innocent users by essentially lying to them or demonstrating some type of intimidating behavior that scares the target into paying for something they don’t actually need.
Best Practices to Avoid Malware
The following are several best practices or precautions to take when preventing or mitigating your company’s chances of falling victim to a malware attack.
- Creating regular backups
Having a reliable backup process in place to protect against data loss is a great way to ensure your company can recover from a cyberattack. Regularly run a backup of the most critical data to a network location off-site, a cloud file storage service, or a tape drive stored in a vault.
- Ensuring network security
Controlling access to your organization’s network is an excellent idea for many different reasons. Using proven technology and methodologies will help minimize the attack “surface” your organization exposes, such as using a firewall, an intrusion prevention system, or an intrusion detection system. In addition to using firewalls and other security measures, some companies also use extreme methods such as physical system isolation.
- Perform regular website audits
Regularly scanning your organization’s websites can keep your organization secure, protect your users, and also help to protect customers who are browsing your sites.
- Use antivirus software
Antivirus solutions are designed to prevent security breaches in the form of malware, Trojans, and other harmful software programs. Installing this solution will remove infections or even stop them in their tracks before they have a chance to cause significant problems to the current configuration of the user’s PC. It’s essential to keep it updated with the latest definitions from the vendor.
- Continuous user education
Keeping your users and employees aware of the best ways to avoid malware attacks can do wonders for keeping your systems safe. Train them in things like not running random unknown software, or identifying phishing emails, etc. Realistic, unannounced phishing tests are among the best ways to determine how well your business handles these situations.
To prevent malware attacks (or any other hacking or unauthorized activity), make sure you are always running the latest, most recent version of your operating system, antivirus software, and all web browsers. If there is a zero-day vulnerability for a particular application, make sure to disable or uninstall it immediately before hackers take advantage of it. Additionally, if you know your company's acceptable use policy regarding technology, make sure everyone follows those policies.
Malware can come in various forms and attack tactics, but there are ways to help harden your position against this threat. For example, by making thoughtful preparations and implementing process improvements alongside a continued effort to educate users, your organization can stay on top of the ravages of malware over time.