A malware attack can cause untold harm to the people and/or organisations it targets. An infection can lead to serious data breaches, identity theft, and fraud. Furthermore, it can cause significant financial and reputational damage.
There are many different types of malware, with ransomware said to be the biggest online threat to people in the UK. The National Cyber Security Centre offers large private and public organizations advice and guidance on mitigating these attacks. But what about on an individual level?
What can we do to protect ourselves, our devices, and our data? Before we can answer that, it’s important to understand what malware means, as well as some of the key statistics surrounding the topic.
What is malware?
The term itself is a portmanteau of ‘malicious’ and ‘software.’ The concept is essentially to embed within a system or device and work against it. That can manifest itself in numerous ways, as there are many different types of malware.
For example, the aforementioned ransomware encrypts all of the data within a system and locks the user out, effectively holding them to ransom before they regain access. Then there is keylogging, where the person responsible for installing the malware can track which keys the user is pressing and subsequently discover passwords to gain access to sensitive data. Meanwhile, spyware can monitor your browsing history, including emails and banking information.
What are some of the key malware statistics?
- According to data gathered by PurpleSec, between 2009 and 2018, the number of malware infections rose from 12.4 million per year to 812.67m.
- Almost all (99.9%) of malware discovered on mobiles is hosted by third-party app stores.
- The vast majority of mobile malware (98%) targets Android devices.
- Almost four-in-five (79%) of companies were hurt by their lack of cyber preparedness over the last 12 months. That’s according to Mimecast’s State of Email Security report.
How can you protect against malware?
There are a few steps you can take to help protect yourself against malware attacks. You can install anti-virus software that will regularly scan your device as well as update periodically. You can also connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which creates an encrypted data tunnel that secures your connection. Given the statistics quoted above surrounding the number of attacks on Androids, users of those devices should definitely use Android VPN.
Furthermore, you can:
- Ensure your software is regularly updated.
- Back up your data.
- Install firewalls.
- Generally, employ common sense.
This includes only installing apps from reliable sources, such as Google Play and the App Store, as well as avoiding clicking links or downloading attachments that you receive from suspicious-looking senders.