March 25, 2021

Protect yourselves against all viruses, including malicious software

You might think initially it relates only to your PC , however, your smartphone, television or even your robotic lawn mower are all at risk of being infected. It is up to you to protect them against viruses and malicious software. Here are a few explanations to help you better understand the phenomenon and know what to do.

What is malicious software?

This is also known as malware. It is software designed to infiltrate or damage an IT system (without the owner’s informed consent, of course).

The malware family includes some big names, including Trojan horses, viruses, worms and ransomware. These all have different effects, but they use the same flaws in your connected devices to install themselves.

These flaws either relate to the weakness of certain programmes within your PC or your behaviour when online. There are also   new and more local types of attacks which uses the poor security of your WiFi network to enter your devices.

Who is hiding behind these attacks?

After the question, “what is malware?” people usually ask: “who creates it, and why?”. In films that we saw maybe ten or twenty years ago, it was adolescents who were more pranksters than anything else.

Maybe this was true then, but today malware is created by professional criminals. They use sophisticated tactics and have made a real career out of it.

Some programmes, i.e. ransomware, it locks your IT data and make your PC unusable. In exchange for returning it to normal, they charge you a few hundred euros and give you a few hours to accept. This is just little enough for you to accept the proposal immediately, but enough time for them to get the money reward from you.

A bigger risk is to be robbed of your bank details or passwords. Hackers can then empty your account or sell this information on the black market, where it fetches a good price.

Is antivirus software necessary?

Antivirus software seems to have gone out of fashion in the last few years. Recent articles claim that it does not offer protection, or it’s no longer sufficient in 2020.

Software publishers (Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, etc.) and web browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) have made enormous progress in security and are updated much more frequently.

Consequently, many users mistakenly believe that the capacities integrated into their operating systems and cautious online behaviour will protect them against digital threats.

Unfortunately, this is not true!  Good antivirus software works on several additional levels: it checks all freshly downloaded programmes, regularly scans your PC and can even recognise previously  unknown malware, based on technical characteristics (such as the attempt to “hide” on your PC).

 Just because you have a t-shirt, it doesn’t mean you don’t need a jumper to protect you from the cold. Several layers of protection will always be better. .

Follow these good practices every day

Even with the best antivirus software, there is always a risk of picking up malware. It’s up to you to adopt a number of good habits:

  • Regularly update your software and operating system (updates often correct security flaws)
  • Do not download suspicious files (films, music, software, attachments, etc.)
  • Do not click on links from unreliable sources (the complete address of the destination website appears if you hover over the link)
  • Never open emails from unknown senders. Do not reply and do not follow links.
  • Choose complex passwords (mixing figures and letters, upper and lower case, special characters)
  • Do not save your banking information when shopping online
  • Perform regular backups or use a known cloud service

Further reading: our article on 10 security tips if you’re working from home

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