When it comes to cybersecurity, terms used to describe different attack methods are often confusing to individuals and business owners. However, knowing the basics regarding cyberattacks is often the first step in protecting your organization and its data from cyber threats. Before diving into specific malware types, it’s first crucial to understand malware as a whole.
What is Malware?
If you’ve ever received warnings that your technology has been compromised by malware, then you know the stress that can cause. The term malware comes with a negative connotation, but what exactly does it mean? Malware is a general term used for a tech program that intends to infiltrate and/or damage a piece of technology. Some malware programs are designed to simply break in and collect information from a device. This can be very dangerous in terms of cybersecurity, as critical information about an organization or its customers may be compromised. Other malware programs cause harm to devices by slowing down or stopping functionality. Some may even transfer control of a device to a third party.
Malware is an inclusive term – there are further distinctions that specify the type of attack. Two of the most common forms of malware are viruses and ransomware.
The term virus, similar to its use in healthcare, refers to a type of malware that spreads to devices through infected files. Some viruses are associated with worms, which are corrupted pieces of code that clone themselves and travel in that way. As it travels through networks, a virus causes damage, such as corrupting data or software programs. Often, viruses lead to system failure and/or a loss of sensitive information and data.
Viruses easily spread through devices on the same network, but how do they initially reach the network? This can happen in a variety of ways. Often, phishing emails are the main culprit. Phishing refers to the sending of fraudulent emails under the guise of a reputable company or individuals. These emails sometimes ask recipients to reveal personal information, but they may also hide viruses in their attachments that when opened, unleash themselves on the organization’s network.
Unlike programs that simply corrupt your devices or steal information automatically, ransomware is a unique type of malware that locks your devices, networks, or files until you pay a ransom fee. Like other malicious programs, ransomware can make its way into your devices in a variety of ways, including email attachments, popup ads, etc. Unfortunately, many device owners don’t even know that ransomware has affected their technology until they are no longer able to access it.
Often, ransomware encrypts systems, programs, and files. Owners then are faced with the dilemma – either lose these or pay the ransom fee to access the key needed to decrypt them. There is a misconception surrounding ransomware that if data has been backed up properly before an attack, that data can be restored – eliminating the need for paying the ransom. However, cyber hackers have long since found ways to include data backups in their attack in attempts to give owners no other option than to pay up.
Depending on the size of the affected organization and the sensitivity of the locked information, the amount of ransom demanded by hackers can vary greatly. It’s important to note that although paying the ransom may seem like an easy solution, those who created the malware are criminals. So, making the payment doesn’t guarantee they will release the hacked information or devices. In cases where ransomware is discovered, bringing in the authorities is the appropriate first step.
Tips for Avoiding Malware
Dealing with a cybersecurity attack of any kind is stressful, and often expensive in terms of associated costs or lost information. The best approach is to prevent malware from affecting your devices in the first place. While no method is foolproof, there are several ways to help protect your company from cybersecurity attacks.
Ensuring standardized software throughout an organization and preventing individuals from installing additional software onto the network is a smart first step. Standardization also helps when it comes time to update software. Establishing safeguards that protect a company’s networks is also critical. These include firewalls, utilizing a VPN, and conducting regular audits to assess network security and address any issues.
Also, while business owners tend to be decision-makers regarding preventative measures, all individuals within an organization can unleash cyber threats on the technology. So, they too need to be educated and trained on cybersecurity and how to identify and properly report security threats to the appropriate department.
Kustura Technologies - Partners in Cybersecurity
Navigating the world of cybersecurity is overwhelming – especially because hackers are smart and the attack efforts are ever-evolving. It’s not a matter of “if” a cyber attack will affect your business, but more of a “when.” So, establishing a plan for keeping your organization’s devices and networks secure and both preventing and dealing with threats is crucial for organizational success. Some businesses choose to take on cybersecurity in-house. But for those without an experienced IT team in place, partnering with external IT experts is often the best route to take.
Kustura Technologies offers cyber IT security systems designed to protect your organization’s network, files, and data. We constantly monitor your cybersecurity so you can focus on other aspects of your business rather than preventing cyber threats. The United States consistently comes in at #1 in terms of the frequency of cyberattacks. Don’t let your business become part of that statistic – contact us today to discuss your IT needs and get some peace of mind knowing your business is protected.
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