What Is Malware and How to Prevent Infecting Your PC or Phone

Updated October 6, 2023

Everyone knows the wisdom quote about the unknown emails and opening links that promise you a fortune. You simply avoid doing that for your own sake. Even if it sounds so good, it hurts. But isn’t that a thing from decades ago?

Viruses, worms, and other unpleasant surprises are hidden in fake software, and unprotected websites are still significant. That’s why you will see a variety of antivirus products, from unknown brands to more recognized ones like McAfee antivirus in 2020. Malware protection is an essential step in your ordinary tech 101 education, so being one step ahead is always in handy.

What is malware?

android malware

Malware is malicious software designed to damage, steal, or exploit your computer and data. It includes viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, etc. There are 350.000 new pieces of malware emerging every day, and more than 7 billion malware attacks were reported in 2019.

Sometimes malware is easy to spot with your bare eye when you notice unusual activity or extensive resource usage (shortage of RAM, slowness, random program executions, etc.) on your computer or smartphone. On the other hand, some malware is designed to work in a stealth mode, which can jeopardize sensitive data and cause data breaches.

The most popular way of malware distribution is via links attached to emails. At the same time, hackers actively use corrupted applications and infectious codes on websites. You may also be exposed when using unprotected WiFi networks and USB devices.

Most malware lurks deep within your system, and even if it doesn’t show itself right away, you can suffer colossal damages in the future. Nowadays, the most popular type of malware is phishing links and spyware that collects your sensitive data and steals it, either for individual hackers’ usage or for sale. The least common types of malware found now are the ones that are designed to mess up with your hardware and system corruption.

What can I do to prevent infection?

First and foremost, it is essential to pick up the AV solution that you will feel comfortable to use. There are plenty of options available on the market. You can easily choose the one that will cover all necessary devices (if you have multiple devices) and provide you with the best malware detection. In addition to antivirus, it is also helpful to adjust your browser security settings and get protection add-ons.

Secondly, it is recommended to run a full scan check at least once in a month and have a real-time protection backup for everyday use. It is easy to set a reminder for a routine inspection every month or adjust settings accordingly with new AV solution products. All antiviruses have the option of detecting and removing the infection before it has done damage to your files and data.

Specialists also suggest the regular update of the system and in-built security components. It is easier for hackers to intrude with newly designed codes and find system vulnerabilities in outdated OS. Simultaneously, if your app asks for an update, accept the new release, as developers also address the most common concerns with their products and fix bugs and vulnerabilities.

Always use licensed products and avoid downloading them from shady websites. Nowadays, it is reasonably effortless to visit the developer’s official website and purchase the software without having to expose yourself to dangerous programs online.

Always double-check apps presented in Google Play and App Store, even if they seem legit. For instance, most Google Play apps are managed by the team, but it is relatively easy to add an app that wasn’t reviewed by the administration. However, the most common scenario with apps from unknown developers is unpleasant bills from in-app purchases.

What is safe online behavior?

Although having an antivirus and checking for software licenses is proactive enough, there is something more that you might know about the online behavior. Always double-check what you are downloading and what websites you choose. Sometimes it is better to protect yourself and choose the licensed product than its a cheaper version on the web.

The legit website always has a lock symbol in the left corner of the URL bar, which indicates that the site has certificates that secured and encrypted the information you share with it. The most common scamming method is posing as a legit website and harvesting user logins and passwords. Also, be cautious about what you agree to when allowing a website to access your location or send notifications.

It is imperative to be aware of social engineering techniques. If you see a post that includes an alluring promise to win something if you click on the link, it is probably a scam or has malware distributed through the link. Pop-ups, strange emails, dubious sites, everything should be doubted and never trusted from the first sight. Of course, it is easy to become paranoid with all the possible scenarios, but it is fairly easy to remember steps of recognizing the prominent “fake” offers.

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