How Do I Protect Myself Against Malware
Malware is a short form of malicious software that is often used to hurt computer users. It
It has vast capabilities, including:
Disrupting operations of a computer
Gathers sensitive information
Impersonates a user to send fake messages
Gains access to private systems of a computer
Most of the malware activities are criminal, with many serving from the dark market. They engage in hacking and other activities to get information from banks or personal/organization logins credentials to gain access to email and social media accounts. Government, private citizens, and even law enforcement agencies use malware to circumvent encryption to spy on their users.
Having malware, an adversary can disable notifications for specific programs like antivirus, record using a webcam or microphone, record keystrokes, steal passwords, copy emails and other files, and many more.
How Adversary Uses Malware to Hit Its Targets
The best way to prevent a malware attack is by avoiding getting the infection from the onset. This can be an uphill task if your adversary is having access to zero day exploits. That means the attacks exploit your computer application because it has a previously unknown vulnerability. For instance, your computer is a fortress that a zero-day is hidden secret entrance that isn't known to you, but the adversary knows about it.
This way, there's no way you're going to protect yourself since you don't know the secret entrance is in existence. Government and law enforcers know this and stockpile zero day exploits to use in malware attacks. Criminals may also have access to zero-day and could potentially plant malware on your computer. However, zero day exploits are costly to purchase and even more expensive to re-use. This is because once the secret entrance is used to break the fortress, chances of other people finding it increases. Therefore, attackers prefer to trick computer users into installing malware on their own.
Hackers may trick you as part of their target group easily into installing malware into a computer. They may disguise a payload as a link to a particular website, PDF, document, or program that helps in boosting the security of your computer. They may reach via email, faking it as coming from someone you know. It may come as a message on Twitter or Skype, or even as a link posted on a Facebook page. The more the attacker gets fires shots to the targets, the more they will try that you download the malware into your computer.
For instance, Hackers targeted civilians in Lebanon with malware disguised in trojanized versions of communications tools like WhatsApp and Signal. These tools have fortunately been deemed secure for some time. Ethiopian dissidents, human rights lawyers, and students are also a target with spyware faked as Adobe flash updates and themed politically is PDF files. A Tibetan activist was also a target with malware. It was hidden in a PDF file that was faked to be originating from another Tibetan activist.
How to Protect Yourself Against Malware
When you want to protect yourself against malware, consider:
Using Antivirus software
Antivirus software is effective when you want to combat a basic non-targeted malware that is usually used by cybercriminals to target hundreds of people at a go. However, it's usually not effective for targeted attacks like the one Chinese government hackers planned to compromise the New York Times. EFF recommends using antivirus on a computer or smartphone to boost your security all the time. Consider reading reviews about the service provider before purchasing an antivirus.
Be cautious with suspicious attachments.
Avoid opening suspicious attachments if you want to avoid malware attacks. Opening an already infected file may pave the way to malware installing itself and causing harm. Some people with advanced computer knowledge may know how to identify such files and take the required precautionary measures. However, when the plan is hatched to a specific target, it can be convincing, and the chances of being identified low.
When using Gmail, open the suspicious attachments via Google Drive instead of downloading the file, which may protect your computer against attack. Consider also using Ubuntu OR ChromeOS to improve your security against malware tricks.
Run Software Updates
To avoid malware attacks, run the latest version of the software and download the recent security patches on your computer or phone. As software gets into use, some vulnerabilities are found, and the company tries to fix the problems by offering software updates. This is only possible if you install the update on the computer to get the maximum benefits.
Identify Indicators of Compromise
In some instances, an antivirus may not be in a position to recognize malware, more so if it's new or not known by the authors of the antivirus. If this is your case, you may get indicators of compromise, which are clues that a computer is infected by malware. For example, noting the light near the webcam is on though you didn't activate it or a notification from Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook coming through warning you that attackers target your account.
Other indicators can be your email being accessed from a different IP address, settings altered in, and numerous copies of email sent to an unaware email address or suspicious network traffic.
Actions to Take If You Suspect Your Computer
The first thing you should do if you detect malware is unplugging the computer from the internet source and stopping its use with immediate effect. Remember that every keystroke you will be made after the attack may be sent to the attacker. Consider taking the computer to the security expert to advise more on the malware and offer possible solutions.
Even if found and removed, it's not a guarantee that your computer will be safe from malware attacks. Some of the malware used usually gives an attacker the ability to implement arbitrary code on the compromised computer. This is an eye-opener that the hacker may have installed other malicious software to control your machine.
Consider logging in and changing all your passwords by concluding all of them are compromised. Also, reinstall your computer operating system to remove the malware. This action will remove some of the malware, but the sophisticated ones will persist. In that case, consider identifying the date of the attack and delete everything without reinstalling some files. If you reinstall the files, it may re-infect the computer.
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