The Malware Paradox

VirusWhat is Malware?

Malware is short for “malicious software”. It is any type of software with a malicious intent. This includes computer viruses, spyware/trojan horses, worms, some online scripts and some tracking cookies. We tend to use the term “computer virus” to mean all of these things, but technically this is incorrect.

Hacker

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Those Involved

There are two parties who have an interest in the development of malware, both of which would lose their jobs if it was to go away. They are the malware developers and the security package developers; they are both, in most cases, after your cash. I shall point out here, there will always be those out there to cause damage, meaning we need some “good guys and girls” to help prevent and repair that damage.

The Anti Malware Problem

The problem occurs when there is so much money to be made in security products and too many people using insecure computers. This makes it easier for programmers to write more malware with increased scales of damage. These “bigger” and “worse” malware programs then reach the media, where they are hyped up out of proportion, in many cases. The “experts” then recommend everyone updates their anti virus software and make sure it is from a “decent” provider.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Securing Your Computer

The fact is there is so much more to securing a computer than just installing anti virus software and a firewall; they are simply the easiest things to do. Additionally the internet is a constant threat and there is no time to be spent with your feet up. Whether it is topical in the news or not, you should have good computer practices, which ensure that your computer is in the best possible state to fend off malicious software and attackers.

Some good practices are:

  • Keeping all your software and drivers up-to-date
  • Running up-to-date quality anti virus / malware software, free or paid – good free ones for include Avast and AVG – good paid ones include Bit Defender and my personal favourite ESET NOD32
  • Running a well configured firewall on your computer and network
  • Turning off unnecessary features
  • Using strong passwords
  • Being careful when opening email attachments – how to spot a phishing email
  • Don’t click on anything that looks suspicious – check with someone else if you’re not sure
  • Keep regular backups

Remember if you are running Windows, Mac OS or Linux/Unix, any computer to be precise, it can get malware/viruses.  The chances are if you aren’t running Windows you won’t get any, yet it is important to remember they are out there and it is wise to take steps to prevent them. For those not running Windows you probably don’t need anti virus, but a firewall is very much advised as well as adhering to good practices will probably keep you safe.

What if You Get Malware?

If you suspect you have malware/viruses on your computer, I advise you get it checked out ASAP and don’t use the computer until you’re sure it’s safe. A really good free program for finding a removing malware is Malware Bytes. It has a good track record dealing with most occurrences of malware and it is easy-to-use.

Overall

All in all I’d consider malware to be the fourth biggest threat to IT. It’s important to take steps to prevent it, but more fuss is made about it than there needs to be. So keep calm, take steps to prevent malware and carry on!

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