Cyber attacks are an unfortunate reality for small businesses.
In fact, it can be argued that small businesses especially should be aware of how often they are at risk of being targeted by a cyber attack. According to Fundera, 43% of cyber attacks go after small businesses. Of those businesses that fall victim to these attacks, 60% go out of business within six months.
With such sobering statistics, it’s critical that every small business owner has a plan for how they will not only decrease their risk of falling victim to a cyber attack, but also how to respond in the event it happens.
More specifically, small businesses need to have plans for addressing malware attacks, as they are one of the most common forms of cyber attacks that target small businesses. Malware is more commonly encountered by small businesses than any other type of cyber attack, even more common than phishing, data breaches, website hacks, denial of service attacks and ransomware.
While the best defenses against malware are often a strong antivirus and anti-malware software and strong network security, another strong defense is knowledge. Being aware of what types of malware commonly attack unsuspecting businesses computer systems and being able to identify those types can assist in preventing attacks from being successful.
When you think of malware, you likely are envisioning a standard computer virus. These viruses attach themselves to and modify existing files within a computer, server or other system. When those files are executed, so too is the virus.
Although computer viruses are one of the most well-known forms of malware, they actually are not as common as other forms. Still, because viruses spread easily among devices, knowing how to handle them is still key.
In most scenarios, the only way to rid a device or system of a virus is to quarantine and remove the infected files completely. Sometimes, your antivirus software can perform this task. However, some more complex viruses may require a professional to take a closer, more in-depth approach.
Worms are another common form of malware. Most often, worms are delivered via email. The worm can attack an entire network even if only one person opens the infected email.
Plus, unlike a virus, worms can inflict damage on their own outside of a legitimate file. This is why it’s important to have a strong antivirus software that can identify and remove this type of malware as quickly as possible.
Perhaps the most common type of malware, trojan horses are disguised as legitimate programs and do the most damage while a user is unaware.
Trojan horses can be found in infected emails and websites. They often pretend to be an antivirus program and attempt to trick users into downloading something to “remove” a detected virus.
Remember, as a rule of thumb, only trust your device and network’s actual antivirus program. If the name of the program isn’t recognized, then ignore any message.
Ransomware is a form of malware that infects a device or network and usually locks users out of sensitive or important data and information. The cyber criminals responsible for ransomware normally will require a ransom be paid in some form before they will release the data back to the owner.
Most often found in downloaded files, ransomware typically requires an expert to remove from a system and restore access to the stolen data without having to pay the demanded ransom.
As with ransomware, spyware does exactly what its name suggests. This form of malware spies on users and can steal information and data, usually regarding computer activity by sometimes as detailed to certain keystrokes.
Spyware can allow cyber criminals to change security settings themselves to decrease the odds of detection. The good news? Spyware is usually an easier malware to remove, but does point to vulnerabilities in network security.
The final type of malware we will discuss here is known as a rootkit.
Rootkits take advantage of security gaps to remotely access a computer undetected by antivirus software. Cyber criminals using rootkits then have access to anything the computer has access to.
Rootkits are most often removed manually by a network security professional.
If you suspect your device or network has been infected by malware, then these are the specific steps you can follow in order to lessen the damage and remove the malware.
1. Disconnect from the internet
The first step any user should take if they suspect a malware infection is to disconnect their device from the internet and network. This is to prevent further spread to other devices on the network.
Additionally, disconnecting from the internet prevents malware from sending data from your device outside the network.
2. Restart your device in safe mode
On a computer, the next step is to restart in safe mode. With safe mode active, your computer will only operate programs that are necessary for it to function. This may prevent malware from operating, too.
3. Log out of accounts
While the malware is still present, try your best to remain logged out of as many accounts and profiles as possible. This is another step that attempts to prevent access to as much information as possible.
4. Monitor activity
Ensure that you are aware of every program that is running on your computer. If you locate a program operating that you are not familiar with, then close it immediately.
5. Use software to scan and remove malware
Once the previous steps have been completed, run your antivirus program to scan for and identify malware.
After the malware has been identified, the software should provide you with next steps for removal.
While no business owner wants to have to respond to a malware attack, it’s unfortunately a necessity. The strongest defense against a malware attack from causing real damage, though, is prevention.
Ensure that your business’s network has strong security protocols in place, has updated antivirus software and all employees are knowledgeable about how to interact with any type of suspicious computer activity.
For maximum defense against malware, consider contacting a managed IT services provider, such as Advanced Network Professionals, who can monitor your network, isolate threats quickly and protect your business.
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