Whether you are trying to build your own website or you are just trying to ensure good web practices are followed in your home or business, it’s important to make sure you understand exactly how malware is spread and what you can do to prevent it.
What is Malware?
Malware is malicious software that gets introduced to your computer through visiting an unsafe website or through an attack specifically made against you. This second scenario tends to occur with companies that operate many web-based businesses. For example, if your business sales are online and you have access to credit card numbers, you could be attacked by someone trying to steal those numbers.
Most malware is created by individuals or even companies that are specifically looking to steal secure information or interfere with the proper functioning of your systems. For example, some malware attacks are enacted by individuals with a specific interest in interfering with your business website operations. They might bring down your website or change it to make you look bad in front of your customers. Malware can also stop traffic from reaching your website, which can be detrimental.
Depending on the kind of online activity you are conducting, you will be vulnerable to different kinds of malware. Someone just concerned about malware on their home computers, for example, will probably not have to worry about directed attacks, but will instead need to know more about general best practices for browsing.
Preventing Malware Attacks on Your Website
If you are a new website owner, or just newly interested in the risks of malware attacks, focus first on deeper education than the scope of this post allows. In the United States, the FTC is responsible for educating and protecting consumers from malware concerns. They have an excellent resource section to serve as a launching point if you’re serious about understanding malware risks.
Knowing the danger is critical, and having tools to prevent it is even more important. Most of the big domain sellers like GoDaddy and Hostgator recommend SiteLock web security to prevent malware attacks. There are many other options on the market as well. A good web security program will alert you of suspicious activity on your website in real time, but you will need to remember to update your software whenever prompted to do so.
Preventing Malware in Home Computers
If you are trying to ensure that your home network stays safe and that your family members understand best web practices, start by ensuring that your computers are all in good shape. Thoroughly examine your computers’ files to make sure there is nothing suspicious stored there. If you do find malware, find the name of the bug and look it up online. You may be able to find directions from others who have removed that malware to help you identify all of the places you need to check simply by Googling. You should delete anything that is obviously suspicious, but be sure to check these guides as malware can sometimes introduce insidious programs in unlikely places or under hidden names, trying to pass themselves off as legitimate.
Next, talk to your family about following safe online practices. Ensure that they are all aware that they need to be careful about opening links in odd emails, even if they seem to come from a friend as some bugs can get into email accounts and send bogus emails to everyone in your address book. Even if it seems to just be an email from Grandma, if it looks at all odd, it could be that her email was hacked and the email contains malware. You should alert the person that you have received an odd email from their account so they can take action.
Be sure your family knows that they should not download files from the Internet from sources that are suspicious. For example, it’s probably okay to download an Adobe update, but your kids should not be downloading free games.
Encourage your family members to listen to their gut. You can frequently tell when something is off on a website you might visit. For example, lots of flashing pop-ups are definitely a bad sign, and any website that wants access to particular information should be approached with caution.
Consider installing a tracker plug-in for your browser. This way, every time you visit a website you can check to see which websites are trying to collect information from you and you can disable them as they occur. This will prevent those tracking platforms from tracking you whenever you encounter sites through that browser that use those trackers.
Finally, be cautious of introducing new devices to your network. Allowing unfamiliar computers to access your network or using used hardware comes with some risks, so do so with caution.
Should you face any problems with malware, you can always take your computer to a repair shop and they should be able to help you fix it. But in this case, the best defense is offense so make sure your computer is healthy and protected and that everyone is following best practice rules!