In 2019, Verizon found that 28% of security breaches involved a small business. Yet, BullGuard did a study early in 2020 and found that 43% of small businesses in the U.S. and U.K. do not have any security measures in place to protect their information. With statistics like these, many companies are at risk of serious damage due to malware and other cyber attacks.

Today’s post is centered around what malware is and the steps small business owners can take to protect themselves. There’s no doubt that scammers have gotten smarter as technology continues to advance and more companies take their services online. However, with a few security measures in place, you can help keep your business safe in the digital space.

What Malware Means

Malware is the shortened term for malicious software. It basically refers to any kind of computer software intended to damage a computer, server, or company. It is typically used to trick website owners into giving away personal information so that the scammer can commit identity theft. It can also be used to elicit credit card information.

There are many different types of malware. A few common examples are viruses, spyware, and ransomware, but there are many others.

Malware is usually installed on a computer as part of a scam. For example, someone from a “software company” could call and tell you that they have detected a virus on your computer. They say that if you pay a fee, they can remotely install anti-virus software to protect your device and information. Once they get your credit card numbers, they will install the malware, giving them access to your files.

When Malware Attacks

Some small business owners may have been part of a malware scam without initially realizing it. It’s quite common, but also extremely dangerous. These are a few warning signs to keep an eye out for:

Slow Computer

If programs are taking longer than normal to load and your computer is having a hard time restarting, it could be an early warning sign of a virus. In order to be certain, however, you should first rule out that you haven’t run out of RAM or space on your hard drive, as this can be another reason for a slow-moving computer.

Unknowingly Sending Spam

If your contacts start telling you that they’ve received some suspicious-looking emails or text messages from you recently, it may be time to run a malware scan. If this begins happening, be sure to reach out to people you regularly communicate with to warn them against clicking on links or opening files that appear to be sent from you.

Frequent Redirects

If your browser starts sending you to websites you didn’t want or weren’t trying to go to, this can be a big red flag that something is wrong. It tells you that you're not entirely in control of your computer’s functionality anymore.

Malware Removal

If you know or suspect that you already have malware on your device, there are several scans and programs you can use to get rid of it. Your specific course of action will depend on what kind of device has been infected. A good first step is to disconnect the device from the internet to prevent any information being leaked. It’s a good idea to delete any temporary files that could have initially contained the virus. Then, run a scan. It should delete the harmful viruses automatically.

How To Protect Yourself

There are several precautions you can take to help keep your software safe from malware. Although none of them are fully foolproof, they are a great starting point.

Some of the best preventative measures you can take are to keep your applications updated and never click on pop-ups or suspicious emails. You also want to be sure that you never leave your devices unattended, especially if they are unlocked. It’s a good idea to limit the number of apps you have on your devices, as this leaves fewer routes for entry.

It’s best if you do not share any personal information over email. If you must enter your credit card information to make a purchase, go to a reputable, safe retail website. Along these same lines, it’s important to never go to a website you don’t trust. You should also download antivirus software in order to perform regular scans.

Can Malware Go Undetected?

The short answer, unfortunately, is yes. There are certain viruses and trojan horses (a type of computer virus that may at first look legitimate) that will not come up in scans or give out any clear warning sign. There is malware that can even weaken your computer’s antivirus software, making scans useless.

So, how do you protect yourself?

At this point, your best course of action is to continue running scans with the antivirus software you currently have installed (for example, Norton or McAfee) while also calling in a second opinion. There are many free scans options available.

It’s important to regularly perform scans on your computer in order to make sure nothing slips between the cracks. There are many different opinions on how often is best, but it truly depends on your internet usage. If you're frequently browsing the internet and clicking on links, you should do a full system scan at least once per week, if not more. If at any point you think you're experiencing a malware attack, scans should be conducted more frequently.

In Summary

The world of viruses and malware can be extremely intimidating, especially with scams becoming more and more frequent. When dealing with internet matters, the best course of action is to always proceed with caution. Make sure you're constantly questioning whether you trust links and files before clicking and downloading.

Also, be sure to educate all of your employees about internet best practices, particularly when they're using company computers, phones, and other technology. And always remember that there are tools to help keep you safe while browsing.

Do you have any questions about security risks on the internet? The Vervology Team has answers! Get in touch with us to talk about the security of your website.