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5 Common Ways Malware Can Infect Your Computer

cyber-security Each day, cybercriminals release nearly 1 million new malware threats in many forms. From spyware that monitors your computer activity to viruses that destroy your operating system.

There is no such thing as innocuous malware. It makes it crucial to learn more about the common ways that malware can infect your computer and what steps you should take to stay safe online.

What is Malware?

Malware refers to a wide variety of different software designed to cause damage to devices, servers, and networks, or to exploit their security vulnerabilities. Malware includes viruses, worms, ransomware, adware, scareware, and other digital threats.

Nowadays, most malware spread over the internet. Yet, in some cases, criminals may use physical media such as USB sticks and CDs to infect targeted devices.

5 Ways Malware Can End Up On Your Computer

Malware can find its way to your computer as one of the following:

1.    Any Download Whatsoever

Everyone downloads media, apps, browser extensions, and other files all the time. Cybercriminals use such downloads to insert malware.

It is usually easy enough to recognize suspicious websites and learn to avoid them. But more sophisticated hackers will package malware inside legitimate files.

For example, cybercriminals may hack a trusted website and do nothing except add a few harmful pieces of code inside a download. Then unsuspecting victims download the file,  unaware that they’ve infected themselves with malware at the same time.

2.    Illegal Content

You should never download pirated content. Not only it is unethical, but it’s also risky too. But no matter what advice experts give, downloading pirated torrents remains a popular online activity.

As p2p files travel across many computers, they may pick up malware along the way. Some hackers create fake files resembling popular downloads. Either way, it’s hazardous. As tempting as it is, avoid file-sharing services and look for legal alternatives instead.

3.    Email Attachments

Email attachments are one of the most dangerous forms of malware distribution. Unlike other ways of infecting your computer, it can trick even the most security-conscious users. Especially when criminals use social engineering techniques to make you believe the emails are from a trusted sender.

People often download attachments without thinking. And that’s enough to infect one’s computer. So, no matter who you receive files from, be sure to scan them before downloading them. The same goes for clicking email links too.

4.    Removable Media

Hackers can also conceal malware in the firmware of USB or other drives. Since firmware is embedded deep in the device and used for the drive to operate, it makes it difficult to detect it.

Once you plug it into your computer, you infect your device. USB drives aren’t the only physical items to be cautious with. Be careful with external hard drives, CDs, and even charging cables.

5.    Free Software Downloads

There’s no such thing as a free lunch — particularly when it comes to the internet. By now, everyone knows Facebook isn’t really free. It harvests your data for advertising, among other uses. When it comes to companies offering free software, these risks run even higher.

Even if the free software is excellent, the issue may be in toolbar add-ons and other programs that have spyware and other malware hidden in them.

And it’s not only malware that you need to worry about. If a company doesn’t make money by selling software, it may be doing so by selling your data. For example, many free VPN companies got caught selling their users bandwidth. That’s why experts always recommend buying premium VPN for Mac or other devices. The same goes for many different types of software.

Do your research on any software you add to your computer. And don’t allow any installations of additional programs without first checking the background of the other developers too.

Getting Smart About Malware

There are many different ways malware can enter your computer. It might be through clicking the wrong link, automatic downloads on suspicious sites, or any other way. That’s why antimalware software comes in handy when you need to check your computer or remove any questionable flies.

And as technology continues to play an ever-increasing role in our lives, it’s more important than ever to know how to protect your digital devices.

Learn to recognize and avoid potential threats. Use antimalware software and other tools to protect yourself. Don’t wait until malware threatens you. Start acting now.