10 Ways To Protect Your Business From Malware Attacks
Malware is an abbreviation for “malicious software.” It can take many forms including ransomware, trojans, and worms. Each type acts a little differently, but they all put your business at risk.
At Kelser, our comprehensive managed IT support services include protections to prevent malware attacks. But, I’m not here to sell you our managed IT support services. The truth is, we know that managed IT support isn’t right for every organization.
Instead, I’m writing this article so that you can be informed about the actions you can take to protect your business from malware (whether you work with us or not). For us, it’s more important to provide unbiased information that business leaders like you can use to keep your business and data safe.
In this article, we’ll walk through a definition of malware, some of the less common signs that your device, system, or network is infected, and some proactive actions you can take today to protect your business.
What Is Malware?
Malware is an umbrella term that refers to different types of malicious software including ransomware, viruses, trojans, worms, and some bots. These software applications are designed to secretly install themselves on a host computer and harm their users in some way.
Many of these technologies have been in use for more than two decades.
Related article: What Is Malware? How Can It Affect My Business?
How Do Devices Get Infected With Malware?
Malware typically is transferred when a user downloads infected files (such as an email attachment), clicks on a malicious advertisement, or installs programs from unfamiliar sources. It can infect machines and begin doing damage immediately or lay dormant for a period of time before causing issues.
What Are The Signs That Your Device, System, Or Network Is Infected With Malware?
Most people are familiar with some of the signs of a malware infection such as slow load speed, unexpected popup ads, and the blue screen of death.
But, other signs can go unnoticed. For example, you may not notice that the storage space on your hard drive is filling quickly until it’s too late. And, without system or network monitoring tools you might not see that your systems are reaching out to the internet more often than usual.
Maybe your default search engine is suddenly different. Or maybe you can’t find certain files.
You might notice new software icons or new tools in your browser. Or maybe your computer refuses to shut down or restart.
Any one of these events could indicate the presence of malware.
How To Avoid Malware
Rather than face the possibility of having to recover from a malware attack, go on the offensive by proactively implementing protections before you are a victim. Here are some of the most effective deterrents:
1. Provide Employee Security Awareness Training
Employees can be your greatest asset or your weakest link when it comes to malware and other cybersecurity issues. You wouldn’t expect an employee to know how to safely operate heavy machinery without reviewing safety protocols, and you can’t expect them to recognize and respond to threats like malware without training.
The keys to employee security training are frequency and relevance.
2. Install Software Updates & Patches
Keep all of your systems (servers, network devices, and endpoints) patched and up-to-date. Moving your IT operations to the cloud can streamline this activity as many cloud-based service providers automatically push out updates.
3. Use Antivirus & Anti-Malware Security Software
Security software like antivirus and anti-malware identify, block, and remove malware and viruses. Suspicious files are compared against a database of known threats to identify good, bad, or potentially harmful files.
Anti-malware defends before, contains during, and helps remediate after an incident. It constantly tracks programs, so you know exactly what’s running where and when across your endpoints, and sends alerts if a program suddenly turns malicious.
4. Always Update Operating Systems On All Devices
Vendors provide updates to fix bugs and prevent security vulnerabilities. By installing updates, you ensure that your device has the latest tools to protect against constantly evolving cybersecurity threats.
5. Use Modern Firewalls
Firewalls protect your network from potentially malicious activity. They examine incoming and outgoing traffic, using a defined set of security rules, and block potentially malicious activity. And, as the threats change and evolve, it’s important for your firewall to have the latest defenses.
The best recommendation is to replace firewalls every 3-5 years. And, in most cases, a perimeter firewall is not enough to protect your business and data. Consider implementing multiple firewalls to protect different layers of your network, protecting your most sensitive information with several firewalls.
Related article: Firewalls: What You Need To Know (Function, Features, Capabilities)
6. Guard Personal Information
Be careful with the information you post on social media. If you post the name of your dog or child, the name of the town you live in, your favorite movie, your dream car, or other personal information, you may unknowingly be providing hackers with a key to your passwords.
Be mindful of the information that is readily available about you via a quick internet search. Make sure your passwords are not easily crackable.
7. Implement Password Managers
Password managers provide a secure way to store multiple electronic passwords in one location that is accessed via separate strong login information. Rather than remember and continuously update multiple passwords, password managers make it possible for users to protect multiple passwords behind one strong password.
There are several high-quality options that are reasonably priced (or free) and provide another layer of protection for your network.
Related article: 3 Advantages And Disadvantages Of Password Managers
8. Control Access
Whether you are talking about documents, devices, or systems, one way to protect your business from malware attacks is to control access.
Think about who really needs access to what information and safeguard it accordingly. For example, your accounting supervisor probably doesn’t need access to your manufacturing drawings and machining tools.
9. Perform & Test Data Backups
The best defense against malware or any cyber threat is to proactively plan for it. Let me explain. The chances are that your business will experience a cyber attack; it’s a matter of when not if.
Rather than wait for the attack and figure out how to recover, you can proactively put yourself in a better position to respond by making sure your data is backed up regularly.
Not only should it be backed up, but you should verify that the backups are working and that you can access the data you need in the event of a crisis…before you are in the midst of the crisis.
10. Create Cybersecurity Policies
Effective cybersecurity policies balance the need for productivity with the need to secure data.
Many businesses are required to meet regulatory or compliance standards and cybersecurity policies ensure that those requirements are met without providing unnecessary hurdles that will encourage employees to create workarounds that fall outside of cybersecurity best practices.
What’s The Bottom Line?
You now have a full understanding of malware. You know what it is and signs that your device, system, or network has been infected.
You also know how to avoid malware: provide employee security awareness training, install software updates & patches, use antivirus and anti-malware software, update operating systems, use modern firewalls, guard personal information, implement password managers, limit access, perform & test data backups, and create a cybersecurity policy.
You may have the internal IT resources you need to implement these protective measures. Or, you may not have an internal staff and be considering working with an external IT provider to get the security you need.
If you are considering working with an external IT provider, we encourage you to check out several options so that you get the right fit for your organization.
Wondering if the rest of your cybersecurity measures are up to the latest threats? Not sure? Click the button below to receive a free eBook that includes 10 actions you can take today to enhance your cybersecurity including multi-factor authentication and protecting mobile devices.