Ransomware is just one kind of malware that can impact your business and customers. Malware is a blanket term used to refer to any of the several kinds of malicious software that go after your information, your privacy, and your control. If you want to protect yourself and your customers, it's important to know what they are, how they they work, and their differences.
Beware Malware Bearing Gifts
The most common kinds of malware can be grouped into five different categories. One of them is ransomware, a predatory computer infection that takes your information hostage for a price. The other four are viruses, worms, spyware, and trojans.
This is probably the most common term people use any time their computer is under attack. Like the name suggests, a virus works by infecting your computer through a file with a "contagious" code. Once it's been dowloaded onto your computer the virus spreads to other files. If you share any of those infected files with someone else, their computer then becomes infected and that how the virus spreads. The best way to keep a virus from infecting your computer is to use anti-virus software.
Lesser known, but no less troublesome, are worms. A worm works similarly to a virus but spreads on its own, while a virus depends on human interaction or a host program in order to spread. Worms self-replicate and spread across networks without the help of a hacker or host program to latch on to.
Just like with a virus, the best way to protect against worms is good anti-virus software in addition to having an active firewall.
Trojan horses are much more dangerous to businesses than viruses or worms because it can lead to personal information and privacy being compromised. Just like the Greek myth, when the Trojans unwittingly accepted a peace offering from their Greek enemies, software or "Trojan horses" appear friendly but lead to terrible consequences if not treated with caution.
Trojan malware is software that is disguised as safe so that victims will install it on their computers. Once installed the hacker behind it can sabotage your computer by accessing financial and personal information through a "back door" they can use to control your computer remotely.
This type of malware tends to target businesses more because it's harder for employers to control any risky activities their employees might engage in that could lead to a network-wide attack.
Be wary of suspicious attachments and don't open them if you aren't 100% sure they're safe. Use anti-virus software and talk to your colleagues about safe practices.
Lastly, spyware is the other most common type of malware that businesses fall prey to. A tell-tale sign you might be dealing with a spyware infection is a significant drop in your PC's speed. Hackers use spyware to track your internet activity and steal personal information like the passwords to your financial accounts and credit card numbers. To make matters worse, it's often hard to know you've even been targeted by spyware so someone could steal your information without you even knowing.
Not all antivirus software protects against spyware so check with your vendor to be sure and take recommended precautions if it doesn't.
It seems like a lot to remember, but it's easy to protect yourself from potential infections by following a few simple steps:
Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-par to face the threats of all malware
Have an active and reliable firewall
Educate yourself and your staff about risky behavior and safe practices
Regularly back up your information on an external hard-drive
Update your website frequently to prevent newer malware from taking advantage of your website's weaknesses.