Malware Protection – How to Protect Your Phone or Computer from Malware Including Viruses, Spyware, and other Malicious Code
Planning ahead and using free malware protection apps and best practices can help to protect your phone and computer from viruses, spyware, as well as other types of malware. Hackers constantly evolve cyber attacks to take advantage of security vulnerabilities in hardware and software on phones, laptops, servers and other hardware. Using antivirus software – free or paid – provides good malware protection for all of the devices used by your family or workplace. Following other cyber security practices that are free and easy to implement, can reduce your risk of losing money and sensitive information to a virus or malware attack.
Although anti-virus software can be a powerful tool to protect your computer, it can sometimes cause performance issues or interfere with normal activities. It is important to find the best antivirus software that works best with all of your devices.
What is Malware?
Malware is any malicious computer code installed on a laptop, computer, router, server, phone, or other hardware without the user’s knowledge or consent. Malware can cause harm to a computer, interfere with operations, spy on activities, destroy data stored on a computer or network. Malware can also be used to steal information, login credentials, or financial information and money. Malware may cause damage to the infected computer or network. Examples of malware include computer viruses, worms, Trojan viruses, spyware, adware, and ransomware.
Viruses can damage or destroy data on a computer or network. Computer worms are spread by sharing an already infected removable media like a USB drive, opening malicious email attachments in phishing emails, and visiting malicious web pages.
Worms are a type of virus that is designed to infect as many other computers as possible on its own. Worms often use system resources of infected machines to infect more machines and transfer data.
A Trojan Horse is a computer code or app that contains malware. The user believes they are downloading a legitimate app however it contains malware. Free online games that are downloaded outside of official app stores often contain Trojan horses.
Malicious files like executables, weaponized Word documents, Adobe .pdf files, compressed .zip files, and spreadsheets with malicious macros are all used to infect a computer with malware. The malicious files are sent in targeted emails or on spoofed websites. The files download malware that is often used to download even more malware.
What A Hacker Can Do with Malware?
The goal of malware is to steal data or your money. Hackers use security vulnerabilities to break into computer systems to steal or destroy information, scam login credentials, help themselves to your credit card numbers, or read bank account information which they use to transfer your money to their own bank accounts. This is often accomplished without the user’s knowledge. Malware can be sent via phishing email campaigns. The email recipient clicks son a link or opens a malicious attachment that begins the malware download.
Best Free Malware Protection
Using antivirus software, a virtual private network (VPN), and following simple and free cyber security practices can help protect your phone, laptop, and network from hackers and other unauthorized users.
It is best to install antivirus software before an infection occurs. Often the malware attack blocks antivirus apps from being downloaded to the infected device.
Use Quality Antivirus Software
Antivirus software is the best malware protection. It detects a lot of malware, spoofed websites, spam emails, and weaponized email attachments. It is important to install antivirus software from a reputable develop that keeps the antivirus software up to date with the latest malware protection libraries. Hackers constantly hone malware and delivery tactics to evade antivirus apps. If you’re malware protection software is not updated with the latest information, then it may not detect newer malware attacks.
Although there are some free antivirus programs like Windows Antimalware, full featured subscription services may work better with apps that work on all of your computers and phones.
Set your antivirus software to run regular automatic scans of files and directories on a regular basis. If your free antivirus app cannot run automatic scans, then you will have to start scans manually or upgrade to a paid antivirus app.
Download Apps and Software From Official Apps Stores Or Directly From The Developer
Always purchase and download apps, games, upgrades directly from an official app store or from the official company website. Hackers often place spam links in emails, on social media, and within other games to trick people into visiting a spoof website and downloading malware. Visit vendor sites directly to make a purchase.
Scrutinize Emails With Links And Attachments
Be wary of emails that contain links and/ or file attachments. Make sure the send is who they claim to be. It is easy to spoof the friendly name of an email sender. Be sure to look at the email address. Don’t be intimidated into acting hastily – especially if it is sending money, login credentials, or personal information – because of scare tactics in an email. Call the email sender to verify their identity and the contents of the email.
Never open unsolicited email attachments. Hover over links in emails to read the destination link without clicking on it. Don’t click on cloaked or shortened link URLs.
Use a Pop-Up Blocker
Pop-up blockers are free. They stop new windows and browser tabs that could contain malware from opening. Most new browsers have a free feature that can be enabled to block ads and pop-up notifications.
Use Limited Permissions
Create another user account on your own laptop to use when browsing the web. Malware often needs admin level permission to fully infect your computer. If you use a login with limited credentials and are infected with malware, the damage will be contained and limited.
Change Passwords Often
If you think an online account has been compromised, or a device is infected with malware change your passwords. This includes any passwords that are stored in your web browser. Always use strong passwords that are unique to each online account. If you cannot remember multiple unique and strong passwords that are difficult for attackers to guess, use a password vault to create and store them.
Keep Software Updated with Security Patches
One of the best forms of malware protection is to download and install security patches as soon as they are released. Often updates add new features, but they may also be fixing bugs and security vulnerabilities. Hackers launch cyber attacks that take advantage of programming flaws and use them to spread malware.
Back Up Your Computer and Phone Data Regularly
Create backups of phone contacts, important data, and important photos and videos to free cloud storage like iCloud or Google Drive. In case your device is compromised you will be able to restore it with antivirus software or move it to a new phone or new laptop.
Use a VPN
A virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts information sent from your phone or laptop. A good VPN stops hackers from intercepting payment information, emails, photos, and private messages. Although there are many free VPNs available, they usually don’t work with streaming media. Paid subscription VPN services have higher or no data limits.
Beware of Spyware
There are legitimate apps that can be used to spy on a phone. The apps are meant for parents who want to monitor their child’s activity online and location. However, spyware can be purchased and installed on a phone by anyone who has physical access to the phone. If you phone is using its battery life faster than normal, making strange noises, or operating slowly, it may be infected with spyware.
Good antivirus apps can often detect and remove spyware.
Don’t’ Use Public WiFi
Hackers and scammers can easily monitor free and paid public WiFi connections like those found in coffee shops, airports, hotels, and retail stores. Although posting on Instagram may seem innocuous, it gives a hacker your Instagram email and password which may be the same for your other online accounts. Avoid public WiFi and use a different password for every online account. Use a password vault to encrypt your login credentials.
How to Use Malware Protection to Recover an Infected Device
If you suspect your computer or phone is infected with malware run your antivirus app. Make sure your antivirus program is up to date, so it is as effective as possible. Hopefully it will identify, quarantine, and remove and malware or malicious attachments.
Minimize Malware Damage. If you use a work or home network, remove the infected device from the network by shutting off the WiFi or unplugging ethernet cables, so it doesn’t infect other computers or phones. Look through your registry and recently installed programs for any suspicious registry entries or new program installations. On phones, look for that sign that your phone is hacked.
If your laptop is infected with ransomware, you may be tempted to pay the ransom to restore control of the device. Although this may seem like the easiest way to remediation, but there is no guarantee hackers will return control of your hardware or data to you if you pay.
Your workplace may have its own IT department that can clean and restore your computer.
If all else fails, try a factory reset. After a factory rest you may need to reinstall your operating system and all aps. You will probably lose all of your data if it was not backed up.
Consider upgrading to a new laptop or new phone that has the biometric login for protection from hackers and unauthorized users.