Since the pandemic, people are spending more time than ever online. Whether they're working remotely from home, banking, paying bills, shopping, or socializing, a huge part of most people's day is spent on the Internet.
All of this extra time spent online increases the odds we'll fall victim to the numerous hackers and scammers who troll the Internet looking for ways to gain entry to our PC or various other electronic devices.
At the least, getting malware on your computer costs you time and trouble. At the worst, it can be a nightmare that costs you money and your identity. And many of us are unsure what to do if we are hacked, and what to do to keep the criminals out of our devices in the first place.
Hackers write malware for various different reasons, but these days it's mostly written for profit.
One type of malware called ransomware, encrypts your files and locks your PC until you send the hackers a set amount of money. It's always at least $500.00 and many times they ask for thousands of dollars depending on if you're an individual or a business.
Victims are given a set amount of time in which to send the hackers money or else lose their files for good. Some businesses opt to send the criminals the ransom, especially if they didn't have their files backed up, but there's no guarantee they'll unencrypt the files even if they are paid.
The business also has no control over what the hackers do with the data they stole. I'm sure if it's valuable enough, they sell it to other criminals or use it themselves to exploit the customers of the business that was hacked. When you consider that hacks often occur at credit reporting agencies, banks, hospitals, insurance companies, universities, the IRS, and you name it, it's obvious that no one's data is safe.
As bad as ransomware is, it's just one type of malware. There are many other types that range from mild to scary. The following list contains some of the other kinds to be on the look-out for.
- collects user activity data without the victim knowing it and transmits it back to the author of the spyware.
- makes advertisements pop-up or automatically display within a website you visit.
- malware that gets into your PC when you download software from the Internet. Trojans are usually packaged inside of something free like a game, or any other type of free software. The trojans payload varies from mild to severe.
- malware that installs itself on your PC through contaminated email attachments or links in malicious websites. It grants the hacker remote access to your computer which he then uses, along with thousands of other PCs he snagged, to commit various crimes.
- gives hackers remote access to your PC. You'll never kinow it's there, or that the hacker is using your computer to commit cybercrimes, or store his illegal files on your computer.
- It spreads by sending copies of itself to all the computers in a network.
- monitors a person's keystrokes in order to get passwords to a victim's online accounts.
Now that we know about some of the various types of malware, let's talk about how to prevent malware from getting into your computer in the first place. Below is a list of things you can do to greatly lessen the chances of you getting hacked.
1. Install a paid antivirus program.
The free versions of some antivirus programs work fine, but the paid versions do automatic scans for you so you don't have to remember to do it yourself. They also block some malware from coming in as you're searching the Net. I personally like Malwarebytes. It doesn't cost that much for a yearly subscription and it doesn't slow your PC down like so many other well known programs do.
2. Make sure you back up your files manually
to an external hard drive or get a paid subscription to Carbonite which will automatically back up your files for you. This will prevent you from having to pay to get your files back if you get ransomware.
3. Don't click on links or images in emails you recieve.
Don't click on links in websites you visit. These links sometimes contain malware.
4. Be careful what you download from the Internet.
Many of the "free" programs contain malware. When you agree to download something, your antivirus program won't stop it from coming in because you are basically telling your antivirus that you are the administrator and you trust this program.
5. Install Microsoft and Apple operating system updates.
These updates include fixes that improve the security of your computer. Sign up for automatic updates, so you automatically get updates as soon as they are available.
6. Keep all software installed on your PC up-to-date.
Software is often targeted by hackers looking for a way to get malware into your PC. Software manufacturers often release updates that address any security issues they've found.