How to Protect Yourself from Malware in the Covid-19 Era

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The Covid-19 outbreak started to garner international headlines in January 2020. One of the effects of the global outbreak was an increase in cybercrime. In April, the WHO reported an increase in the number of attacks targeting its employees and email scams directed at the general public.

Hackers prey on society vulnerabilities and attacks are common in a time of crisis. True to their brand, cybercriminals took advantage of the Covid-19 crisis resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of malware attacks.

All over the world, businesses were scrambling to adopt a remote workforce. With a large number of people working remotely and increasingly interacting online, the Covid-19 pandemic created the perfect climate for cybercriminals.

Common Types of Malware Threats

One of the key drivers of the cyberattacks during Covid-19 is online dependency. The sheer volume of information we are exchanging online during the pandemic is offering more opportunities for attacks. The habits of people working from home and the security limitations of home networks have also increased opportunities for malware attacks significantly. We must take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from these threats.

First and foremost, if we are to effectively defend ourselves against malware, we need to be familiar with the wide range of malware threats out there. Here are the common types of malware threats we’re dealing with currently.

Ransomware

There has been a sharp rise in ransomware attacks since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to encrypt system files and lock users out of their devices until a ransom is paid. Often, attackers will threaten to publish or delete the data permanently if the victim doesn’t make the payment.

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Trojans

A trojan horse is any type of malware that misleads the user of its true intent. Trojans are very common in the digital world. In most cases, trojans imitate legitimate software to trick users into installing malware on their devices so that they can carry out their malicious goals. Ransomware attacks are typically executed using a trojan that is disguised as a legitimate file.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware that collects information about users’ activities without their knowledge or consent. Once installed, the software will collect personal information such as passwords, usernames, financial data, and browsing habits. Spyware can also be used by attackers to watch and pry on their victims.

Adware

Adware is a type of malware that attempts to expose users to unwanted, potentially harmful advertising. ‘Adware’ is advertising-supported software. This type of malware serves you pop-up and displays advertisements that have no relevance to you. This type of malware is commonly used in conjunction with spyware. Adware infects your device via browser vulnerability.

Viruses

A computer virus is one of the most common types of malware. A virus changes core system functions causing harm to your computer. A virus can replicate itself and spread to other computers. A virus must be attached to another program or executed by user action to replicate. Viruses spread via email attachments, file sharing, or infected websites in the form of an executable file.

Ways to Increase Protection Against Malware

As you can see, malware threats have exploded in 2020, capitalizing on the fear and confusion brought about by the novel coronavirus. Malware is certainly dangerous and it can be extremely menacing in some cases, threatening to lock away all your data permanently or compromise your online banking. The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce the risk of a malware attack. Here are a few ways to increase protection against malware.

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Install Antivirus

Installing a reliable antivirus program should be the first step towards keeping your system secure and free of malware. Antivirus programs are designed to regularly scan the files in your system to identify and remove malicious programs. Antivirus will protect you from lingering, yet dangerous threats such as trojans and viruses.

Use Antimalware

While they are both designed to detect and defend against malicious software, antivirus and antimalware are not the same thing. Antivirus offers protection against older, more established threats such as worms, trojans, and viruses. Antimalware, on the other hand, focuses on broader, more advanced threats such as ransomware and zero-day exploits. Make sure you have both.

Enable Firewall

Firewall monitors inbound and outbound network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a set of predetermined security rules. Firewall can be configured to block malware threats and increase protection. Enable the firewall on your computer to block malware and other threats before they can cause any damage to your system.

Implement Email Security

Phishing scams utilizing emails have increased dramatically since March. Phishing attacks use email as an attack vector to deliver malware. Implement email security by setting spam filters and scanning all incoming emails, including attachments, to reduce the risk of a malware attack.

Keep Your Software Updated

Malware is constantly changing and becoming more resilient. Keep your operating system, applications (including your antivirus), browsers, and plug-ins up to date to ensure protection. By simply making sure that your software is patched and up to date, you can effectively avoid falling victim to threats utilizing known exploits.

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Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a necessary security tool nowadays. VPNs protect your connection from malicious threat actors lurking on the internet, especially when using public Wi-Fi. A VPN acts as a safe passage between your computer and the internet server you are trying to access. Using this tool can protect you from malware distributed on public Wi-Fi networks.

Conclusion

Hackers and online scammers have seized the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity, hoping to capitalize on the fear and uncertainty created by the pandemic as well as the confusion caused by the rapid switch to remote working. As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in malware attacks since the onset of the pandemic. Organizations and individuals must take proactive steps to shield themselves from imminent malware attacks.

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