You've probably heard the term "malware" thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? In this article, we will define malware and a few other commonly used terms in IT so you can better protect your business. Understanding these basic cybersecurity concepts doesn’t require deep IT expertise, so read on.
For a long time, the phrase “computer virus” was misused to refer to any type of attack that harmed computers and networks. The more appropriate term for these harmful programs and files is “malicious software,” or “malware.” Whereas a virus is a specific type of malware designed to replicate itself, any software created for the purpose of destroying or accessing networks and data with the intent to steal, corrupt, or encrypt these should be referred to as malware.
Don’t let all other cyberthreats ending in “-ware” confuse you; they are all just subcategories of malware. Currently, one of the most notorious of these is ransomware, which is malware that encrypts valuable data until a ransom is paid for the decryption key. In a ransomware attack, the victim organization may feel compelled to pay the ransom to regain access to their data.
Intrusion prevention system (IPS)
There are several ways to safeguard your network from malware, but an IPS is one of the nonnegotiables. An IPS sits behind your company’s firewall and monitors for suspicious and malicious activity that can be halted before it can exploit or take advantage of a known vulnerability.
Not all types of malware rely solely on fancy computer programming. Experts agree that the majority of attacks require some form of social engineering to succeed. Social engineering is the act of tricking people, rather than computers, into revealing sensitive or protected information. For some cybercriminals, it's less tedious to convince a potential victim to give them the data they need than to create and deploy complicated software to obtain the same information.
Phishing is a type of social engineering scheme that involves defrauding people using an app or a website that impersonates a trustworthy or often well-known business in an attempt to obtain confidential information. Just because you received an email that says it’s from the IRS doesn’t mean that it is. Don’t take such emails at face value — always verify the source, especially if the emails are requesting your sensitive data.
Antivirus software is often misunderstood as a way to comprehensively secure your computers and workstations. These applications are just one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle and can only scan the drives on which they are installed for signs of well-known malware variants.
When a vulnerability is found within a piece of software, vendors will release an update to fix the gap in security. However, cyberattackers can release a piece of malware that exploits the security vulnerability before software developers can address it. This is known as a zero-day attack.
When software developers discover a security vulnerability in their programming, they usually release a small file to update and “patch” this gap. Patches are essential to keeping your network secure from the vultures lurking on the internet. By checking for and installing patches as soon as these become available, you keep your software protected from the latest malware.
When antivirus software, patches, and intrusion prevention fail to keep your information secure, there’s only one thing that will: quarantined off-site storage. Duplicating your data offline and storing it somewhere other than your business’s workspace ensures that even if your systems get infected with malware, you’re equipped with backups to keep your business running.
Our cybersecurity professionals are always available to impart more in-depth knowledge of the many different kinds of cyberthreats. Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help you with your IT security woes.