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What is malware – and how can you protect yourself from it?


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Even if you don’t know exactly what malware is, it’s definitely not something you want on your computer. (Photo: Getty)

There are some cyber security terms that are much known, and while most people have heard of them, they can be a bit vague about their exact meaning. Malware is one of them.

Just know this in advance: Even if you don’t know exactly what malware is, it’s definitely not something you want on your computer. Actually, federal trade commission (FTC) calls malware one of the biggest threats to the security of your computer, tablet, phone and other devices. Basically, malware is something you want to take seriously.

Fortunately, software like Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device Can help remove and detect malware on your computer. But, again, it’s a good idea to at least know what you’re trying to protect yourself from before getting all your defenses on the line. So, what is malware? Here’s what you need to know.

Buy it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial then $4.99 per month, subscription.yahoo.com

What is malware, exactly?

“Malware is an all-encompassing term that includes many forms of intentionally malicious software,” joseph steinberg, cyber security and emerging technologies consultant, tells Yahoo Life. The word “malware” is actually a combination of the words “malicious” and “software,” he explains.

Malware “composed of a variety of distribution elements that can be used to infect [devices], including viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, spyware, adware, and other mechanisms,” said Chuck Brooks, a technology and cybersecurity expert, president of Brooks Consulting International, tells Yahoo Life.

Malware is also becoming more popular over time, Brooks explains. “Recently, malware has become a weapon of choice as it has become more profitable as hackers can encrypt and exfiltrate data from their victims and collect payments from their victims through cryptocurrency.”

Malware can help cybercriminals steal your personal information.  (Photo: Getty)

Malware can help cybercriminals steal your personal information. (Photo: Getty)

Why is malware so bad?

For starters, most people don’t know when they have malware. NS FTC Indicates that it is often installed incognito on your device. And, once it’s done, criminals can use malware to do a few different, unpleasant things, like:

  • Steal your sensitive information (like your bank account password)

  • send you unwanted or inappropriate ads

  • The ransomware demands you pay them to unscramble the encrypted data

  • Make your computer more vulnerable to malware

“People should learn the basics about them, because malware poses a serious threat to every user of computers and smartphones,” Steinberg says.

Signs You May Have Malware

NS FTC Shares some useful tips that suggest you may have malware on your computer:

  • It suddenly slows down, crashes or shows error messages again and again

  • it won’t shut down or restart

  • It won’t let you remove software

  • You’re getting too many pop-ups, inappropriate ads or ads that interfere with the content you’re trying to view

  • It shows ads in places you don’t usually see them, such as government websites

  • It shows new and unexpected toolbars or icons in your browser or on your desktop

  • It uses a new default search engine

  • It displays new tabs or websites that you didn’t open

  • Your computer’s Internet home page keeps changing

  • Your computer is sending emails you didn’t type

  • Your computer’s battery drains faster than it should

If you're getting a lot of pop-ups, inappropriate ads or ads that interfere with the content you're trying to watch, your device may be infected with malware.  (Photo: Getty)

If you’re getting a lot of pop-ups, inappropriate ads or ads that interfere with the content you’re trying to watch, your device may be infected with malware. (Photo: Getty)

How to protect your computer from malware

Antivirus and intrusion detection software are key, Brooks says. Steinberg agrees. “Be sure to use security software on all your computing devices,” he says. like software Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device Provides multi-layered, advanced protection to help provide you with continuous protection against many critical existing and emerging threats before malware, viruses, spyware, online scams and ransomware reach you.

Other advice for protecting your computer from malware, courtesy of cybersecurity experts:

  • Don’t Click on Links in Email and Text Messaging Unless You’re Expecting Them

  • install firewall

  • Secure Your Internet Router

  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which allows you to create a private network from a public Internet connection

  • If you have sensitive data, consider encrypting and backing it up

  • Store your data in the cloud, where it can be managed by the security provider

Of course, the best way to protect your computer from malware is to shut it down before it reaches you. Getting good antiviral software now will go a long way toward keeping you — and your data — safe now and in the future.

Buy it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial then $4.99 per month, subscription.yahoo.com

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