Have you ever received an email claiming it was from your bank? The message may tell you to update your account by clicking on a suspicious link or downloading an attachment. The chances are that attachment is malware.

Malware can infect your computer or device through various entry points. If you do not have basic knowledge of these entry points, you may fall victim to it.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to prevent malware infection. One effective way to protect yourself is to install secure endpoint solutions into your network that provide prevention, detection, and threat response against malware.

What Is Malware?

Malware, short for “malicious software,” is designed to exploit or cause harm to applications, devices, services, or networks. This threat can come in many forms, such as worms, viruses, ransomware, Trojans, and spyware.

There are various ways to tell if your computer is infected by malware.

Some of the symptoms include your computer becoming slower than usual, startup or shutdown problems with your device, or annoying pop-ups when you open a new browser window.

Once installed, malware can:

  • Monitor your activities – Malware can log what you are doing on your devices, such as keystrokes or mouse clicks. It can also capture your personal information, online credentials, or financial details.
  • Hijack your device – Malware can use your device to infect other devices in the network.
  • Damage or disable your device – Malware can cause your device to malfunction, leading to startup errors, sudden shutdowns, or software crashes.

Cybercriminals often use malware to capture or steal data from their victims and use the stolen data. These data usually contain confidential information such as passwords, financial records, healthcare information, or other personal details.

Almost all industries have fallen victim to malware in the US, including organizations from the healthcare, education, and financial sectors.

Ransomware attacks caused an estimated $11.5 billion in global damages in 2019 and $20 billion in 2020.

What Are the Common Points of Entry?

Email Attachments

Malware in the form of viruses often comes as email attachments disguised as legitimate files or software. An unwary user may download the file and install it, not knowing that it was malware that could infect the computer.

A common method for delivering malware by email is through phishing attacks.

A phishing attack occurs when an attacker sends an email to a target by pretending to be a legitimate entity or organization.

The attacker then tricks the victim into giving the attacker sensitive information. They may manage to steal credit card details, bank account information, or even the victim’s social security number.

A successful attack can cause financial or identity theft.

Drive-By Downloads

These types of malware install themselves into your computer without your consent (unauthorized without notification). You may even intentionally install the malware without knowing its full details.

They usually appear on websites, sometimes including legitimate ones. The malware gets installed into your device when you access those sites or when you click a link on those sites.

One example of unauthorized installation is when an unwary user accesses a website hacked by an attacker.

Even if it was legitimate, that website may be compromised, making users download the malware without their knowledge.

In authorized downloads, the file or app to be downloaded may be legitimate but may have been compromised by the attacker. That file is then used as a vector to deliver the malware.

Infected USB Devices

USB drives are small, portable devices used to store, transport, and share files with other devices. Because of the USB drives’ portability and ease of access, criminals often use them to spread malware.

When a user plugs the malware-infected flash drive into a computer, the malware downloads itself into the computer. This can happen either automatically or when the user clicks on an infected file.

Sometimes, the attacker will use the USB drive themselves to steal information from a victim’s device.

Once the attacker accesses the computer, the attacker can download confidential information. This information can include encryption keys or passwords. The user might not even find out that their devices were already hacked.

How to Prevent Malware Threats Through These Entry Points

Preventing Email-Based Attacks

Most email providers have spam filters that can analyze the contents of the email and determine if the email has malware.

However, there can be times when legitimate emails also get tagged, or malicious emails can still get through. You may need to check some of those emails manually.

You can check the sender’s email for potential malware.

Suppose the email address does not appear to have a legitimate domain (e.g., nameofbank@gmail.com instead of customerservice@nameofbank.com). In that case, the email may be a phishing scam.

Preventing Drive-By Downloads

Both website administrators and end-users can prevent malware attacks through drive-by downloads.

For web admins, setting up a secure password is a start. Do not use simple passwords like “12345” or “admin1111”. A good practice is to use password generators or make your passwords a mix of alphanumeric and special characters.

Keeping web components updated or removing outdated components is also a good security practice for admins. This method ensures that attackers do not take advantage of security flaws that can hack the website.

Windows end users can use a non-administrator account as their main account and only use the admin for program installation. This method prevents drive-by downloads from installing themselves without your permission.

Preventing USB-Based Attacks

If you picked an unknown USB off the ground, do not plug it into your computer. Don’t do this even if it is just out of curiosity that you want to view the drive’s contents. If possible, surrender it to the proper security authorities, such as your company’s IT department.

You can also disable your computer’s autorun feature. The autorun causes CD, DVD, and USB drives to automatically open when plugged into the drive.

This autorun feature can inadvertently trigger the malware to install. By disabling this feature, you can give yourself time to perform an antivirus or anti-malware check on the drive.

Make sure to install trusted antivirus software that can detect, prevent, and remove threats like malware and spyware to keep your devices safe.

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It is also essential to keep your security software updated. New viruses and malware come out all the time, so it is best to ensure your security can prevent new threats from infecting your device.

Conclusion

There are many ways for your device to get infected by malware attacks. These threats can slow your computer down or, worse, steal your identity and finances.

Simple solutions, such as maintaining a secure password, using spam filters, or updating your antivirus software, can prevent malware from disrupting your work and personal life.