So, you've decided to get an antivirus for your computer. That's great! Our previous articles discussed whether you really need one, and also if you should get a premium or free version. Now that you've decided to get an antivirus, you should know the threats it can protect you from.
Antivirus software was originally designed to detect and remove computer viruses, but as new types of malware emerged, antivirus software had to evolve to keep up. Today, antivirus software can protect against a wide range of malware, including:
- Phishing Attacks
List of threats an antivirus can protect you from in 2023
Let's take a closer look at each of these:
Malware is the most common security threat, affecting millions of users every year. Users who click on a malicious attachment or link may unknowingly install dangerous software on their computer. This malware can disrupt the computer's functioning, steal sensitive information, and even install other harmful software.
In short, malware is any malicious software script or program whose only job is to harm your computer. It can take many forms. For instance, viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, adware, and ransomware, you name it! And what harm does it do, you ask? It can steal your data, damage your computer, and make your digital life hell, no kidding!
Have you ever wondered why our PC is suddenly behaving in a way it’s not supposed to or why we’re suddenly unable to access our Netflix or Gmail accounts? Have I been hacked?
The culprit, your honor, is : Malware.
If you had an antivirus installed on your PC, it could at least give you some early warning signs about some suspicious activity or whether your device was at risk all along. Software like Malwarebytes and Bitdefender safeguards your devices from malware. So, if you have one installed, you’re probably safe. But it’s important to keep your antivirus software up-to-date.
So, how does this malware get inside our computers in the first place? Malware is spread through different means, such as email attachments, file downloads, and infected websites (more on that later). Why are we talking about malware so much in this article? In case I didn’t mention it earlier, malware is a broad term that encompasses all other threats we’ll discuss in a moment. It simply means malicious software.
Now, it is time to look at the different types of malware that can trouble you if you do not have a competent and updated antivirus.
Spyware is malicious software designed to secretly collect information from your computer or mobile device without your knowledge or consent. It snoops on your web browsing activities or steals your login credentials (including passwords) and credit card numbers. This stolen information is then passed on to third parties like advertisers, data collection firms, or criminals.
It can get through by clicking on a malicious link, opening an infected attachment, or downloading a file from an untrusted source. In most cases, spyware can be difficult to detect - as it often hides itself in legitimate-looking software. However, there are signs that your device may be infected by spyware, such as:
- Computer running slower than usual.
- Browser infested with pop-up ads.
- Homepage changes without your permission.
- Receiving email spam.
- Trouble logging into websites
If you suspect spyware, scan your device with antivirus software. Also, uninstall suspicious programs and change passwords.
A computer virus is software that can replicate and spread from one computer to another. When a virus infects a computer, it inserts its code into other computer programs. This code then executes when the infected programs are run, causing damage or other undesired effects. Viruses can use various methods to spread, including email attachments, file sharing, and infected websites.
A worm fits the definition of a virus. It’s a type of malware that can self-replicate and spread from one computer to another without human intervention. But unlike a virus, a worm need not exist as a host program on a user machine, waiting to be executed and self-replicated. Instead, it’s a malicious program that spreads across the network through an internet or LAN (local area network) connection, capable of carrying out attacks on its own.
Some signs your computer may be infected with a virus or worm, such as:
- Slow computer performance.
- Freezing or crashing.
- Programs running automatically.
- Irregular web browser performance.
Antivirus software like Avast and Kaspersky can regularly scan your computer for any of these signs and make sure your computer is running properly.
Adware can be found on both computers and mobile devices. It can track your online behavior and display personalized ads. But in the majority of cases, adware is a nuisance that displays unwanted and irritating pop-up ads on your device and creates an open door for other malicious programs, among other things.
Adware typically ends up on a user's device when installing a freeware without realizing it bundles additional software containing adware. This way, developers can make money by running adware onto your systems without your consent. Even worse, hackers exploit a vulnerability in one of your software or operating system to insert malware into your device.
Attackers send phishing emails that look like they're from banks, credit card companies, or government agencies. This email tries to get the recipient to reveal their Social Security number, credit card number, or login information using a malicious link or file. Phishing is often successful because it's realistic.
Emails may be addressed to the recipient by name and use legitimate company logos. Attackers even use urgent language or threats to pressure users into acting quickly. Be careful if an email or message requests sensitive information. Don't click on links or reply to emails straight away. Try contacting the company or organization directly to verify the email or message.
Antivirus software detects and blocks malicious links and attachments in phishing emails and messages. It can also check your computer for any malware that may have been installed due to a phishing attack and remove it before it can do any damage.
Ransomware is a nasty malware that locks users out of their files or computer and demands a ransom payment to restore access. It's spread in various ways, such as phishing emails, malicious websites, and drive-by downloads (unauthorized installation of malicious software).
Once installed, the ransomware encrypts (locks) all the files on the computer, including personal documents, photos, videos, and financial data. Attackers then demand payment in exchange for unlocking the device and restoring access to files and data. The victim cannot access their files if the ransom isn't paid.
In some cases, attackers even delete the data or publish them online. Ransomware attacks can have a devastating impact on businesses, organizations, and individuals, often leading to lost productivity, financial losses and reputational damage.
Trojans are malware that impersonates legitimate programs or files. Once you open or run a Trojan, it can take control of your computer and perform illegitimate actions, such as stealing your data, installing other malware, or disrupting your network. Trojans spread via email attachments, malicious websites, and file-sharing networks.
Always keep your antivirus software up to date to ensure it's effective against the latest threats. You should also be careful about what you click on and download online and never open email attachments from unknown senders. By following these simple tips, you can help you protect your computer from malware and other threats.