What is malware and why should I be concerned?

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“Malware” is a shortened version of the words malicious software. It is defined as: a generic term used to describe any type of software or code specifically designed to exploit a computer/mobile device or the data it contains, without consent.

Most malware is designed to have some financial gain for the cybercriminal. Whether they are seeking your financial account information or holding your computer files for ransom or taking over your computer or mobile device to “rent” it out for malicious purposes to other criminals, they all involve some sort of payment to the cybercriminal. And because they are making money with malware, they continue their malicious ways.

There are a number of ways that malware can get “on” your computer or mobile device. You might open an attachment from someone you know whose files have already been infected. You might click a link in the body of an email or on a social networking site that automatically down­loads a virus. You might even click an ad banner on a website and end up downloading a virus or malware (known as “malvertising”). Or just by visiting a site you could get infected from what is called a drive-by download. Malware is also spread by sharing USB drives and other portable media.

And, now that mobile phones and tablets are basically mini computers, cybercriminals are targeting mobile devices. They are taking advantage of the inherent nature of the device to spread the malware, so as a mobile user you not only need to be aware of the same tricks cybercriminals use for computers, but also ones that apply to mobile devices.

Currently most mobile malware is spread by downloading an infected app so you need to be aware of what sites you download apps from and what permissions it accesses on your mobile device. Mobile malware can also spread via text messages (SMS). Scammers send phishing messages via text (called SMiShing) to try and lure you to give up personal or financial information or sign you up to premium text messages unknowingly.

What does this mean for you? You need to be aware of these tricks and scams as it could mean financial loss, reputation harm and device damage to you and your friends.There are things you should do to protect yourself, including making sure you protect all your devices with a cross-device security software like McAfee All Access. You should also make sure to:

  • Keep your operating system and applications updated, as updates often are to close security holes that have been exposed
  • Avoid clicking on links in emails, social networking sites, and text messages, especially if they are from someone you don’t know
  • Be selective about which sites you visit and use a safe search plug-in (like McAfee SiteAdvisor which is included with McAfee All Access) to protect you from going to malicious sites
  • Be choosy about which apps you download and from which sites you download them and be sure to look at the permissions for what information its accessing on your mobile device
  • Be smart and stay aware about cyber tricks, cons, and scams designed to fool you


2 comments on “What is malware and why should I be concerned?

  • Malware is becoming so advanced that I wonder if it can even be stopped at all. Today I heard of a malware attack by Equation group that has been going on since at least 2001 and that can simply automatically install itself on HDD firmware before you even bought your PC, where it remains undeletable and undetectable and where its able to take over from start-up. Really, the simple malicious email link or file malware installs seem child's play compared to that. I hope McAfee can do something to take away these threats, if its possible at all.

    • Robert Siciliano says:

      Yes, malware is very pervasive and everywhere and it’s always attacking us in new ways. The best way is to stay vigilant by using comprehensive security software and well as get educated on tricks that hackers use.


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