“Malware” has quickly become one of the most commonly used technology buzzwords, a catch-all term for a computer nightmare. But what exactly is malware and how does it affect your computer? Let’s take a look at the top questions our technology consultants are asked about malware — and their answers.
1. What is malware?
Short for “malicious software,” the term “malware” refers to any software designed to hurt a computer, server or network. Malware is intended to damage, interrupt, steal information from or generally harm the hardware it digitally infects. Think of malware as a tick on an animal — it may be small or unnoticeable but, left unchecked, it can cause irreparable damage on your software.
2. What types of malware are there?
Malware comes in several forms, including spyware, adware, viruses, worms, Trojans, bots and back doors. These nuisances can be minor irritations that slow down your computer or cause pop-ups, or they can be more menacing by stealing data, destroying your network and compromising your systems.
3. What damage can malware wreak on my hardware?
While malware can cause headaches and run up your IT costs, it cannot harm physical hardware. As long as you are able to reset or reformat the hardware, the malicious software can be eradicated.
4. What is the difference between malware and a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP)?
While one of the defining characteristics of malware is its malicious intent, PUPs are usually just annoying drains on resources. They are known for causing spam emails, battery drains and other headache-inducing problems. These PUPs are often hidden as a sort of bonus software, grouping themselves with software you intended to download or install. A special toolbar, for example, may be automatically set to install with certain programs — that toolbar could be considered a PUP.
5. A malware scan has warned me of several PUP threats. How do I get those off my computer?
Luckily, PUPs are often treated as malware, and are therefore easily detectable by your antivirus scanning software. For our recommendations on the top antivirus software, read about them here.
6. How can I protect my computer from malware?
Protecting your computer from malware can be done both proactively, and reactively. Proactive malware prevention includes using safe surfing practices, keeping your legitimate software programs updated, installing firewalls, and knowing how malware is spread.
7. How does malware spread?
Malware can be spread in several different ways, but some of the most common are through pop-ups that disguise themselves as genuine alerts, through infected CDs or thumb drives transferred from computer to computer, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing systems, and through email attachments or links.
8. If there’s malware in an email and I forward that email, does the malware get forwarded too?
Yes. If you’re not running up-to-date malware protection or antivirus programs, any files sent to your email can be forwarded. If the person receiving the email doesn’t have malware protection and they open the file, their computer will also be infected. This is one of the leading ways malware spreads, and one of the reasons vigilant email surveying is so important. If you receive a file or link you weren’t expecting, or from someone you don’t know, think before you click.
9. What are the best ways to prevent malware?
The best ways to prevent malware also double as best practices for computer usage: use safe browsing habits, install applications only from known sources, keep your antivirus software up-to-date, don’t forget to update your operating system (OS), and remember that prevention is always better than reaction.
While tackling malware can be intimidating, protecting your network doesn’t have to be. To make sure your business is completely protected, reach out to a Gordon Flesch Company representative today for a free, no-obligation consultation to determine your business security needs.