No one wants malware. Viruses, ransomware and other bogeymen lurk in the many dark corners of the Internet ready to prey on the unsuspecting. Naturally, one must be prepared to protect themselves, hence the variety of apps and programs out there such as antivirus. But malware is a many-headed hydra, and not every service will defend against every attack. To help you, we break down the different kinds of malware and their solutions below.
Malware is basically just malicious code, software developed with an intent to harm, or with malicious effects. Malware can be used to steal information, hijack other people's machines, or even extort money from the victim. These are the 5 main types of malware that you should look out for.
Much like its counterpart in nature a computer virus infects its victims, taking control over some or all of its functions. The virus destroys data or looks for things like passwords, credit card/social security numbers, or other sensitive information, often sending the data along to the attacker's computer. While in control of your computer, a virus can use it to spam emails (see worm below) or coordinate other types of online attack.
Solution: You've probably heard of the more famous antivirus packages, such as bitdefender, Norton, AVG and so on. Most of these provide good protection though some are more feature (bloat for some) -heavy than others. Antivirus isn't just for your PC, it can also be useful for your smartphone.
- Which antivirus is right for you? Check our list of the best antivirus and security apps for Android
A worm is a virus that replicates itself over a network. Worms are often spread via email. They arrive, peruse your address book, and then send a copy of themselves all your contacts, masquerading as message from your account. Chances are you've seen one of these arrive in your email, or even through social network messaging services such as Facebook Messenger.
Solution: Antivirus will help you here too, but caution and common sense go a long, long way. Don't open suspicious looking messages with generic or out-of-character subject lines, mysterious videos or links. If you're not sure, contact the messenger separately to warn them they might be infected.
Spyware monitors your Internet use, sending information back to a central computer that then targets you with advertising. Sounds just like what Facebook, Google etc do, right? But you didn't sign up for this. The most invasive spyware can log your keystrokes or even activate your webcam. Plus, the monitoring can actually slow down computer to an excruciating crawl, and the ads online can become maddeningly intrusive.
Solution: Spyware can be really difficult to remove manually, but fortunately most antivirus software comes with strong antispyware features too. Avast, Norton, Kapersky Labs are among the best at this.
A trojan masquerades as a legitimate program, even as antivirus software. The sneakiest even do have a legitimate use, all the better to disguise ulterior motives. Trojans can delete data, compromise security, steal your banking details, or distribute ransomware as described below.
Solution: Antivirus usually stops trojans before they can act. However encrypting your most important files can provide extra protection. Security suites like Bitdefender Total Security, G Data Total Security, and Kaspersky Total Security come with options to encrypt your personal data.
Possibly the most devastating type of malware, and certainly one of the most advanced, ransomware is enjoying a worrying rise in popularity (among attackers) these days. Ransomware blocks access to the data of a victim, threatening to either publish it or delete it until a monetary sum is paid. The most advanced types of ransomware even encrypts the files. Worse yet, there is no guarantee that paying a ransom will actually work - you're at the mercy of the attacker.
Solution: Normal antivirus isn't good enough for this situation, but Acronis provides the best antiransomware for your PC for free. Acronis Ransomware Protection also comes with local and cloud backups (5 GB free, but you can purchase more).
Have you experienced any of these types of malware? What is our favorite software or technique to protect your computer or mobile device?