Malware is malicious programs that, for example, paralyze computers, steal sensitive information such as passwords and bank details, destroy system components or block entire networks. You can counteract this with a few precautionary measures and a powerful antivirus program.
- There are different types of malware. Computer viruses are the oldest form.
- A powerful antivirus and prevention are the best protection.
- If your computer shows symptoms of malware infection, disconnect it immediately.
- The smartphone can also be the target of malware attacks.
What is malware
The word “malware” is a combination of “malicious” and “software”. Malware is therefore “malicious software” or, for short, ” malware “. This refers to programs that sabotage computer systems and cause them damage. To do this, they perform undesired functions on the affected system, often unnoticed by its users. Viruses are the oldest form of malware. Today, however, more than two thirds of malware are so-called Trojan horses. Many other forms of malware also exist.
What types of malware are there?
Malware differs depending on how it is programmed, what it is used for, and how it does it. The most common types of malware include:
- Viruses: Computer viruses are programmed in such a way that they infect a system and then spread themselves on it by making copies of themselves. In doing so, they can specifically disrupt functions, destroy data, damage the hardware and spy on the user.
- Worms: Computer worms are similar to computer viruses. They are also actively replicating and can damage the system. They can also give third parties control of the computer unnoticed (backdoor function). Networks and removable media serve as gateways here. Worms often spread via email – they send themselves to all contacts in a user’s address book via the hijacked email program of a user.
- Ransomware: This malware locks users out of their own computers by blocking access to the operating system or blocking important files. In order to remove the lock, the program demands a ransom payment (English “ransom” = “ransom”).
- Spyware: The English word “spy” means “spy” or “spy”. Spyware (espionage software) reads user data unnoticed, records user behavior and forwards this data to third parties. The goal is usually the evaluation for commercial purposes – for example to show individualized advertisements.
- Trojan horse: Like the eponymous wooden horse from ancient myth, these programs pretend to be harmless or even useful in themselves. Instead, they infiltrate hidden functions into the system that unnoticed monitor data traffic, copy and send files, execute and change programs or install other malicious programs. The ” Trojans ” can even be controlled remotely using the backdoor function . Infected computers are mostly misused for cybercriminal purposes.
How can I protect myself from malware?
An up-to-date and proven antivirus program offers the best protection against malware. Today it is part of the basic equipment of every computer. If none is available, you should install one of the tried and tested protection programs as soon as possible. In addition, only prevention can help arm yourself against malware. This means careful, informed use of computers, software and the Internet. The best way to protect yourself against malware is to take a few precautionary measures to reduce the risk of malicious programs becoming lodged on your computer. Here are some basic rules:
- Always keep your operating system and the programs installed on it up to date.
- Activate the firewall – this protects against unauthorized network access.
- Only install programs that you can trust and that you really need.
- Be vigilant while surfing the internet and do not click on banner ads and pop-ups.
- Don’t click on suspicious links. In general, pay attention to where a link goes before you follow it.
- Do not open emails from unknown senders with suspicious attachments or links, but delete them.
- Remain attentive to known senders as well. Even then, it could be a hijacked e-mail account that is spreading malware under controlled conditions.
- If in doubt, ask the sender – preferably by another means of communication.
- Regularly back up important data on external data storage media.
Always keep the automatic update of your antivirus program active so that it always receives the latest virus definitions. If these are out of date, the program cannot identify current viruses. If the update function suddenly stops working, this can already indicate that your computer has been infected by malware and that the antivirus program has been compromised.
How do I know if my computer is infected?
The following symptoms indicate malware:
- The antivirus does not work or has stopped updating.
- The system crashes, the computer shuts down unexpectedly or can no longer be started.
- The computer works more slowly than usual in normal operation (increased processor load due to malware).
- The Internet is slower than usual (increased data transfer).
- Certain functions can no longer be performed.
- Programs work incorrectly or crash.
- Unknown programs are suddenly installed, pop up or perform functions.
- The mouse pointer moves without you doing anything.
- Emails are automatically sent under your name.
How can I remove malware?
If, despite all caution, an infestation occurs, immediately disconnect the computer from the network and shut down the system in order to limit damage. If you notice typical symptoms, research them on the Internet – but not from the infected computer. Some manufacturers of antivirus software offer special utilities to help with the fix, but these only work against known malware. The safest method – even if it should always be used last – is formatting all data carriers and reinstalling the operating system. It is best to change all passwords as well, because they may have already been captured by third parties.
Malware on the smartphone
Smartphones are more computers than phones. As personal, mobile communication centers and data stores, which are mostly always online, the devices represent a lucrative target for malware of all kinds. In principle, the same rules of conduct apply as for desktop computers. Is your smartphone getting hot? Does the battery drain faster than usual? Is the data consumption increasing sharply? Then your device may be infected. Here, too, there are several possible solutions that vary depending on the manufacturer and model. It is best to research the appropriate one. If you want to be particularly thorough, reset your smartphone to the factory settings (“factory reset”).