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How to Protect Against Malware

Malware, or malicious software, is software designed to corrupt and damage a computer, server, or computer network. As the name implies, malware is deliberately designed to harm a computer, whereas a software bug is unintentional harm caused by an error in the software itself. 

Types Of Malware

There are several types of malware like viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, and adware. 

A virus works by creating copies of itself and spreading onto other files and programs to destroy; they hide within other software programs and avoid detection. Meanwhile, worms spread themselves onto other computers through a network shared by said computers. 

A Trojan horse disguises itself as a regular program but, upon installation, damages or steals the victim’s data. 

Ransomware encrypts and locks the victim’s computer until the victim pays a certain amount of money.

Spyware monitors the victim’s sensitive data like personal information, internet activity, and login information and sends it to another entity, mostly for targeted ads.

Finally, adware generates revenue for its developer by pop-up and banner ads on the infected computer’s screen through CPC(Cost-per-click) and CPM(Cost per mille).

How To Prevent Malware Attacks

If you have visited many insecure websites or downloaded software programs from untrusted sources off the Internet, chances are your device is more than likely already infected with some malware. To combat malware, you can use anti-malware add-ons and software. 

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What is Anti-Malware?

Anti-malware software is different from anti-virus software in that anti-malware detects and offers protection against all types of malware, while anti-virus specialises only against viruses. Despite this, most anti-malware services advertise themselves as anti-virus because most people are more familiar with anti-virus. 

There are also add-ons for your browser that provide various security services.

If you are looking for security for mobile devices, check out our How To Check If Your Mobile Is Secure article.

How It Works

Generally, anti-malware software scans every file and folder present on the system’s disk drives to detect infected files or malware. This data is matched with a massive database of definitions that explain what the malware does and how to recognise it. If said file matches a definition, it is marked as malware. Because with new protection, new malware is developed to overcome it, this method requires the anti-malware software to stay up-to-date so as not to miss any new malware that can harm the device. 

There are also a couple of other methods an anti-malware software uses to find malware. 

Behaviour monitoring involves constant monitoring of files to see if it shows any suspicious behaviour. If a file is performing suspiciously, the software determines it as a potential threat and quickly eliminates it. This also saves the trouble of operating for hours to perform a full disk-drive scan. 

Sandboxing is another method that involves separating a suspicious file for further inspection while keeping other files intact in a safe space known as a sandbox. Essentially, sandboxing tricks the suspect program into thinking that it has full access to the computer while, in actuality, the anti-malware software is monitoring its behavior. After the observation, it determines whether or not the program is malware and deals with it accordingly.

Anti-Malware Examples

Popular anti-malware software services are Kaspersky, Avast, Norton, AVG, and F-secure. There isn’t a definitive “best” anti-malware software because they all offer more or less the same level of protection and quality while having specific strengths and weaknesses.

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Some of these services offer other security features other than just anti-malware protection. This can include features like data backup to have a secondary reserve of data in case something happens to your original data; password managers to easily access websites securely and manage them all; network monitoring to review incoming and outgoing data from in a local network for every computer; parental control to filter out inappropriate and insecure websites; VPN service to protect yourself when using a public Wifi network and so on.

Be careful. Antiviruses don't protect you from everything. Check out your article on Why Your Antivirus Might Be Useless to learn more about what they can and cannot do.

To decide which anti-malware to use, refer to each service’s website and see what you want most in an anti-malware service. If money is a problem, then there are also free options that you can choose to protect your device. This comes with lesser features and varying degrees of capability; however, having some protection is always better than having none.

If for some reason, you don’t want to use anti-malware software, like how some of them are known to interfere with other programs, or you want more security, you can use browser add-ons dedicated to security.

Security Addons

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Here are some add-ons that can make your browsing activities more secure on the Internet.

HTTPS Everywhere

There are many unencrypted HTTP websites on the Internet, which generally means it is not safe to visit those sites. HTTPS Everywhere encrypts data sent from your computer through SSL encryption, protecting it from unsafe websites. You can browse any website without fear because you will be using HTTPS.

Webutation

It can be hard to tell how safe and reputable a website is from your first visit. Webutation can help you determine how safe a website is by showing you a score from 0-to 100. This score is based on community feedback where users rate a website. You can also give your rating to help fellow internet users browse safely.

Disconnect

The internet is chock-full of websites that are hungry for your cookies. No, not your actual edible cookies but your HTTP cookie. Cookies are a small bunch of stored data on a user’s computer while browsing a specific website. Each cookie has its unique ID. Websites use this ID to determine unique website visitors and remember login details. However, some companies and websites intend to get a hold of your cookies so that they can use them for targeted ads. Disconnect allows you to see, in real-time, which websites are sending these tracking requests. Disabling these tracking requests prevents theft of your data.

Noscript

Browser scripts like Javascript make the world wide web fun and interactive to use; without it, the internet would be all but a plain document of text. However, some websites have dangerous scripts that can run on your computer to launch clickjacking attacks, XSS software attacks, and DNS Binding. To protect yourself from such scripts, you can use the Noscript add-on to select what sites can manually run scripts on your browser.

Conclusion

Add-ons themselves aren’t without risks. Browser extensions need your permission to function. They can sometimes collect sensitive data and export it to another entity. Since add-ons are hard to monetise unless they have a premium version upgrade like Grammarly, some developers might sell their add-ons to other companies that intend to use them as adware. This is why you need only to use trusted add-ons and properly read what permissions the add-on asks for before installation; if it seems suspicious, avoid it entirely.

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