COVID’s Effect on Cybersecurity and What You Can Do

Introduction

Earlier this year, COVID-19 shook the entire world, forcing country lockdowns, shutting the doors of various businesses, and giving them no other choice but to quarantine inside their homes. Even now, nearly a year later, COVID has a hold on many countries.

But disease and business foreclosures aren’t the only negative symptom of COVID. COVID has allowed cybercriminals free reign on the Internet, and law enforcement agencies have noted an increase in cybercrime.

No one on the Internet is safe from malware hidden in contact-tracing apps to malware campaigns targeting remote workers. So let’s go over the types of malware that have seen increased usage, then go over how users can avoid contracting said malware.

Types of Malware Seeing Increased Usage

Ransomware

Ransomware takes a more forward approach when stealing someone’s money. Instead of using social engineering to manipulate the victim into giving away their information, ransomware uses threats; specifically, ransomware threatens to destroy the user’s device if they don’t pay a set sum of money.

Perhaps the most famous example of ransomware is 2017’s WannaCry ransomware attacks, which caused damage worldwide.

Spyware

Spyware, unlike ransomware, strives to stay unnoticed. Instead of threatening victims to pay money, spyware lurks in the device’s background, collecting and stealing personal information.

Spyware is capable of stealing any information, from saved logins to bank account information. Spyware is the silent killer of privacy.

Adware

Not all malware aims to be overly malicious. Many malware, such as PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs), resemble little threat to users. Adware is what happens when malware tries to be obtrusive, annoying, and malicious.

Adware hijacks a device’s browser and operating system and displays random ads, either through a separate pop-up window or in the same tab.

While not as malicious as spyware and ransomware, adware can be incredibly annoying to deal with and get rid of. Plus, these ads can look legitimate, and they trick many people.

How Users Can Increase Protection on Their Devices

There are other types of malware besides the ones listed above. However, the ones listed above pose the greatest threat to users today during the COVID pandemic.

So how can users protect themselves? Fortunately, there are plenty of methods users can take to keep them and their devices safe.

Downloading Anti-Malware Software

The first (and most obvious) thing users should do is install a reputable anti-malware program. These programs perform in-depth scans, comb through a device’s files and folders, and locate and PUPs or malware.

Once the anti-malware program detects a threat, it quarantines said risk and prompts the user to delete it.

It would be a good idea to install an antivirus program alongside an anti-malware program for maximum protection.

Frequently Updating Devices

No software is perfect. For this reason, users should frequently update their devices. Why? Because developers often pack security fixes and improvements in routine patches and hotfixes, meaning that ignoring these updates puts users at the mercy of security flaws.

Updating devices and programs takes minutes at most. Most devices allow scheduled updates, meaning users can let their devices update while they’re in bed. In summary, there’s no point in not updating devices.

Configuring a Firewall

Not all malware comes from sketchy sites and malicious downloads—some are network-borne, meaning they come from unsafe network connections.

Firewalls—such as the built-in Windows Firewall—filter out any malicious or unnecessary network packets that travel through the network, and warn users of any malicious activity. Firewalls are vital to keeping safe from network-borne threats.

Researching Other Software

Users who want to begin taking their security seriously and fighting against malware would do well to research other security tips. Whether it’s to download a VPN app or perform routine file cleanups, there’s no such thing as too much security.

 

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