Commonly known as “malware,” malicious software comes in a variety of packages. While certain types of malware only present a minor inconvenience, others stand to compromise your privacy and online security. When working to protect yourself from the machinations of malware developers, knowledge is half the battle. As such, it behooves security-conscious individuals to educate themselves on the most common varieties of malicious software. Anyone looking to keep their devices malware-free can benefit from reading up on the following offenders.
Adware is among the most prevalent forms of malware making its way around the web. In many cases, adware functions as more of an annoyance than a serious security breach, but getting rid of it after it’s taken hold can often prove tricky. More often than not, adware comes bundled with freeware programs and trial versions of assorted software. Once installed, adware will bombard you with advertisements for specific products and services. It’s also common for adware to hijack your browser and force it to land on pages that promote the product(s) it’s attempting to promote. In some instances, adware will even change your default browser.
Luckily, adware is fairly easy to avoid. For starters, you should always exercise caution when installing programs from questionable sites and sources. Secondly, when installing a freeware program – or any other program, for that matter – pay very close to the installation options, as you’ll often have the option of not installing adware with the rest of the program’s components. Adware developers count on people clicking “OK” without taking the time to review which components are being installed, and exercising a little bit of caution is a great way to throw a wrench in their plans.
Ransomware is arguably the most aggressive and outright devious form of malware plaguing modern-day internet users. As the name suggests, ransomware essentially takes devices hostage and holds them for ransom. The exact mechanics vary from program to program, but most varieties of ransomware are designed to hijack devices until certain conditions are met. In extreme cases, ransomware has been used to financially cripple both private businesses and individual victims. Once ransomware has taken hold, all of your files will become impossibly encrypted – and only the developer holds the key to restoring them. As such, the prospect of ransomware infection is one of the best reasons to constantly back up important files.
Although some ransomware developers demand cash, many of them prefer digital currency, like Bitcoin and gift card codes. The requested amount is often random, but in some cases, cybercriminals will peruse any financial documentation found on your device and tailor their demands based on what they think you can afford. If the ransom isn’t paid by a certain date, the perpetrator will likely make the infected device completely inoperable and/or steal any sensitive information that device holds.
Spyware is one of the oldest forms of malware, and its effectiveness has helped it remain a favorite of modern-day cybercriminals. True to its name, spyware is designed to keep tabs on victims’ online activities. Additionally, depending on who’s using it, spyware isn’t always utilized for nefarious means. For example, many well-meaning individuals use it to check up on friends and family members about whom they’re worried. However, when used by criminals, spyware serves as a means to log keystrokes and steal passwords. A few stolen passwords are sometimes all it takes to compromise a victim’s personal finances and throw their entire world into disarray, so spyware is not a threat that should be taken lightly. In working to remove and prevent spyware, a dependable anti-virus security program can be an invaluable ally.
Malicious software represents one of the most prevalent threats to modern-day internet users. With new forms of malware constantly popping up and developers consistently finding new ways to spread their wares, protecting your devices from malicious software can seem like an uphill battle. Fortunately, steering clear of malware isn’t nearly as daunting as you may think. Knowledge can be a powerful weapon in the quest to avoid malicious software. The more you know about malware and how it’s spread, the better equipped you’ll be to combat it. Armed with right information, you should have no trouble making malware infections a thing of the past.