Malware is one of the biggest threats businesses face today. As of mid-2022, 22% of all cyber attacks were considered malware. In addition, ransomware—which is only one of the numerous types of malware—is expected to cost companies $20 billion by the end of 2022.
With the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reporting that cybercrime is rising, knowing how to prevent malware attacks is a must for any business. And yet, despite the importance of defending against malware, only 50% of US businesses have a cybersecurity plan.
Protecting your organization from malware can save you from financial and data loss and help eliminate the possibility of unscheduled downtime. This article looks at different types of malware, how to spot them, and how to protect your business against them.
What is Malware?
Malware is a portmanteau of “malicious” and “software.” Malware is software designed to disrupt a computer, network, or device or gain unauthorized access to systems or information. Some malware infections result from a targeted attack, while others stem from careless internet usage or weak security measures.
Common types of malware include:
- Adware – This software displays pop-ups and ads that, if clicked, can direct you to malicious websites that may steal your information.
- Ransomware – Ransomware attacks hold your information “hostage,” locking vital files via encryption until the perpetrator receives payment.
- Rootkits – Once installed, a rootkit allows a hacker to secretly control your computer remotely. Malicious actors often install rootkits that target administrator accounts to make substantial changes to system configurations or spy on unsuspecting users.
- Spyware – This malware collects sensitive information such as passwords, social security numbers (SSNs), and credit card numbers. Spyware can also track your online behavior.
- Trojan Horses – Disguised as legitimate software, these programs trick users into opening or downloading them, then give attackers a “back door” to exploit. Remote-access Trojans (RATs) are particularly problematic, as they can provide hackers access to cameras and microphones.
- Worms – Worms, subsets of Trojans, replicate themselves without human interaction, spreading through networks via the internet or LAN connections.
- Viruses – A computer virus is a program that can spread from device to device by replicating itself (like an actual virus), corrupting or destroying files. Unlike worms that self-replicate, viruses are triggered by host activation.
These malicious software attacks can infect devices and put data belonging to your business, employees, and customers at risk. Therefore, protecting your information and assets from malware is essential regardless of the size of your organization or industry.
How Do You Spot a Malware Attack?
When a computer or network becomes infected with malware, it may begin showing certain telltale signs. Some of the more noticeable indicators of a malware infection include:
- An unusually slow computer
- Frequent freezing or crashing
- Annoying pop-ups or spam messages
- Disabled programs
- New files or folders that appear unknowingly
- Changes to your device’s appearance or settings
- Unusual network activity
If you or any of your employees notice signs like these, it is best practice to disconnect from the internet and immediately report the issue to your IT team. From there, a specialist can run a malware removal tool to locate and eliminate the problem.
Malware is often undetectable—even with the right software. As such, it’s in your best interest to prevent malware from infecting your devices in the first place.
How to Prevent Malware
As with most aspects of cybersecurity, there is no surefire way of preventing malware. Instead, it’s wise to cover as many bases as possible to keep your organization secure. Here are the steps we recommend taking to reduce your risk of falling victim to malware:
- Use email monitoring software
- Keep software and systems up to date
- Install firewalls
- Encrypt your data
- Educate your employees
Use Email Monitoring Software
Email is essential to your business’s day-to-day operations—but it’s also the primary entry point for malware. Malicious actors often hide malware in email links or attachments, then use social engineering tactics to convince users to click.
During a busy workday, it can be challenging for employees to scrutinize every email (even if security trainings claim that what every good employee should be doing). So, to keep your organization safe without adding to everyone’s workload, extend your organization’s native email security capabilities with advanced malware detection.
Unfortunately, native email security does not protect against malware attacks in time to prevent sensitive data exposure. Armorblox Advanced Malware Detection product scans all incoming and outgoing emails for signs of malware without interrupting business email workflows. If malicious content is detected, Armorblox automatically isolates the threat and notifies both security teams and end users with contextual warning banners that provide the reason why the email was flagged.
Keep Software and Systems Up to Date
Routinely updating all software and applications across your network helps keep your organization safe.
Threat actors look for vulnerabilities in commonly used software and exploit them to infect your devices with malware. To combat this, software developers routinely release patches that fix these vulnerabilities.
Ultimately, every day you delay updating your software is another day your systems are at risk. When you update your operating systems and other software, you stay on top of any potential security threats.
Firewalls offer another line of defense against malware. Whether physical (hardware) or virtual (software), firewalls work by scanning incoming and outgoing packets of data for signs of malware and other suspicious markers.
When your firewall catches a packet with malicious code, it flags the data and prevents it from reaching your network or computer.
While firewalls are essential to a robust cybersecurity strategy, they’re not infallible. Firewalls base their actions on a list of predefined rules. If a never-before-seen virus (i.e., zero-day malware) comes your way, your firewall may not recognize it as an attack.
Encrypt Your Data
For an added layer of protection against malware, consider encrypting your data. Data encryption encodes your information, making it undecipherable without the decryption key.
Encryption may not prevent malware from infecting your organization’s devices but it can reduce potential damage from malware attacks. Because no one wants to buy information they can’t read, encrypted data is useless to a cybercriminal.
Educate Your Employees
As malware can infiltrate your network from any entry point (including physical access), it’s imperative to bring everyone in your organization on board with cybersecurity education. From retail workers to top executives, every employee should complete training on security software usage and best practices to minimize the chance of a malware attack.
Whether you opt for in-person training or online learning modules, you should regularly instruct your employees to:
- Use unique, strong passwords
- Set up multi-factor authentication (MFA)
- Keep sensitive information in a secure location
- Refrain from downloading and installing unapproved programs
- Report suspicious activities to your IT security department
However, as malware attacks become more sophisticated, human vigilance alone isn’t enough to protect your business. Even the best-trained people can make mistakes. For that reason, your cybersecurity strategy should also include technology solutions.
Stop Malware in its Tracks with Armorblox
The reality is that malware will never disappear. As developers improve their malware detection and prevention software, hackers refine their malware attacks. It’s a cyber “arms race” that shows no signs of slowing. You need to continue learning if you want to stay one step ahead of malicious actors and prevent malware attacks and stop advanced persistent threats.
Armorblox Advanced Malware Detection stops attacks propagated through email attachments using advanced Natural Language Understanding (NLU). Armorblox stops attacks propagated through email attachments with advanced NLU and provides full visibility into signature and malicious attachments for quick incident response through Machine Learning models, static, and dynamic analysis. Armorblox protects end users with a secure cloud sandbox environment to test, replay, characterize and document advanced malicious activity. This ensures there are no delays in end users gaining access to critical emails nor disruption to email-based business workflows, while enabling and integrating end users into your cyber defense.
To learn more about how Armorblox can protect your business from all communication-based threats, take our five-minute product tour.