You may be wondering how you could get hacked through malware. After all, if you don’t visit questionable websites or download sketchy files, you’re probably safe, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Cybercriminals are getting more and more sophisticated in their attacks, and they can often find ways to penetrate your computer security and steal your data. In this blog post, we will discuss the most common ways that you could get hacked through malware. We will also teach you how to protect yourself from these attacks. Read on to learn more!
What is Malware and How does it work?
In order to protect yourself, you need to know what malware is and how it works. Malware is a type of software that is designed to damage or disable computers and computer networks. It can be used to steal data, spy on users, or hijack computers for other nefarious purposes. Malware is often distributed through email attachments, infected websites, and peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent.
Malware is typically hidden in a file that looks harmless, such as an image or document. The malware works by exploiting vulnerabilities in your computer’s security. Once it has infected your system, it can do anything from spying on you to stealing your data or even taking control of your computer.
The technical aspect of malware involves code that is designed to execute instructions without your knowledge. It may be embedded in a file or run as an application on its own. Malware can come in many different forms, this leads us on to our next point.
The different types of Malware that exist
There are many different types of malware but they can be broadly classified into the following categories:
Viruses: A virus is a type of malware that attaches itself to another program or file in order to spread. It can damage or disable your computer, and can often be difficult to remove.
Worms: A worm is a type of malware that copies itself and spreads through networks. It can cause major damage to systems and networks and can be very difficult to remove.
Trojans: A Trojan is a type of malware that masquerades as a legitimate program. It is often used to steal data or passwords or to damage or disable computers.
Spyware: Spyware is a type of malware that spies on your activities and collects your personal information. It can also track your web browsing habits and send the data back to the attacker.
Adware: Adware is a type of malware that displays unwanted advertisements on your computer. It can also track your web browsing habits and send the data back to the attacker.
Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that locks you out of your computer until you pay a ransom. This form of malware is becoming increasingly common due to the rise in cryptocurrency use.
Spam: Spam is a type of malware that sends unsolicited commercial messages (such as emails) to large groups of people. It can also be used for phishing scams and identity theft.
5 ways you could get hacked through malware
There are many ways hackers can cause harm to you through malware however we will cover the most common ones below:
1) Opening attachments in unsolicited emails
Hackers often send infected emails with malicious attachments that can contain viruses, worms, or Trojans. If you open the attachment, the malware will infect your computer and can do anything from stealing your data to taking control of your computer.
You can spot an email that contains malware by checking the sender’s email address and the subject line. If either of these looks suspicious, do not open the email. Also, be wary of emails with attachments that are labeled as “Invoice”, “Order Confirmation”, or “Scanner report”. Keep an eye out for any misspelling or grammatical errors which are common in these types of emails.
2) Visiting infected websites
Hackers often use infected websites to distribute malware. If you visit an infected website, the malware can infect your computer and do anything from stealing your data to taking control of your computer. To avoid this, use antivirus software that can block infected websites and make sure your browser’s security settings are set to high. Don’t cut corners when it comes to investing in cyber security.
Infecting websites often comes in the form of ads, so be careful when clicking on links or downloading files.
3) Clicking on malicious pop-up windows
Hackers often use pop-up ads to spread malware. The ads hackers use often include messages like “You have won a prize!” or “Your computer is infected with a virus! Click here to fix it”. If you click on the pop-up, the malware will infect your computer almost instantly.
To avoid this, always close pop-up windows by clicking on the “X” in the corner of the window. You can also use an ad blocker to block malicious pop-ups from appearing, there are many free versions so this is defiantly worth downloading.
Pop-up ads can be very convincing, so don’t always trust your instincts when it comes to clicking on them. If you have any doubt exit the website as quickly as possible.
4) Downloading malicious files
Hackers often use file-sharing websites to distribute malware. They will upload an infected version of a popular movie or song and name it something like “The new Avengers movie” or “Justin Bieber – Love Yourself”. This is why you should avoid unknown streaming websites and only download files from trusted sources.
Malicious files can also be disguised as innocent-looking programs like Adobe Flash or Java. You can spot fakes by checking the file size and the website’s domain name. Fake files often have very small file sizes and are hosted on domains like “.ru” or “.cn”.
5) Infected USB sticks or hotspots
USB sticks are a popular way to spread malware. If you plug an infected USB stick into your computer, the malware will be infecting an unsecured Wi-Fi network. Under no circumstances should you take a USB from someone you don’t know.
Hackers also often set up free Wi-Fi hotspots to distribute malware. These fake hotspots are usually named something like “Free Public Wi-Fi” or “Starbucks Wi-Fi”. To avoid this, always check the name of a Wi-Fi network before connecting. If you’re not sure, don’t connect.
A VPN is a great way to prevent the spread of malware when using public Wi-Fi as it encrypts all of your data. If you want to know more about VPNs read our full guide on VPNs, this will explain how they work and which ones are the most reliable.
What to do if your computer is infected with malware
So if the worst-case scenario happens and your computer is infected with malware, what can you do? There are a few things you can try.
The first thing is to use an antivirus to remove the malware from your computer. There are many special antiviruses that are designed to remove malware, so make sure you have one of these installed on your computer. They can often be found for free online.
Cancel all your online accounts
If the malware has stolen your passwords or other sensitive information, you will need to cancel all of your online accounts and change your passwords. If you act fast and cancel all your credit cards you should be able to avoid any financial losses. Don’t wait for something to happen, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Contact your bank
If you have lost money as a result of the malware, contact your Credit Card Company or bank as soon as possible. They may be able to refund you the money that was stolen. The banks are equipped to deal with situations like this, so don’t be afraid to contact them. It’s better to have some professional support than to try to fight the hackers alone.
If the malware has caused damage to your computer, you can try restoring it to a previous state. This will undo all the changes the malware made and return your computer to its original state. To do this, go to your computer’s System Restore settings and follow the instructions. It is important to do this as quickly as possible, the longer you leave it, the more damage the malware will do.
Backup your data
If you think the malware has caused permanent damage to your computer, or if you can’t remove it using an antivirus, then you may have to backup all of your data and reformat your hard drive. This is the last resort, but if nothing else works, it is the best way to get rid of a persistent malware infection.
Clear your cache and cookies
If you have any problems with your browser, one of the first things to try is clearing your cache and cookies. This may help remove any data that has been infected by malware. Malware often hides in your browser cache or in cookies, so this is a good thing to try.
Discount from the internet
This is a great reactive tactic, by discounting from the internet you can reduce your chances of being exposed to malware. The less time you spend online the better, so if you discount from the internet or use a VPN it will be harder for hackers to get hold of your data.
If you disconnect from the internet, you will be harder to target as the hackers won’t know where your computer is. Of course, this isn’t always possible or practical.
Prevention is better than cure! Of course, the best way to deal with malware infections is not to get infected at all. The more you know about malware and how it can infect your computer, the safer your data will be. Always use antiviruses and VPNs to reduce the risk of malware infections.