What is malware: How to protect yourself

April 30, 2020

We download all the time. Whether it’s a new album from our favourite band, an application to help our browser run a little smoother, or a new computer game we’re hoping to try out, downloading is a part of our daily lives.

The problem is that, if we’re not careful about what we download, we leave ourselves vulnerable to attacks from cyber criminals.

"a person looks uncertainly with a phone in one hand and an envelope in the other"Malware is a common method that cyber criminals use to infect systems and devices and steal information from victims. A cyber criminal tries to trick you into opening an attachment, clicking a link, or downloading software that looks legitimate but that is a malicious.

Here’s how you can protect yourself.

What is malware

Malware – short for malicious software – is software that infects your computer so that cyber criminals can infiltrate or damage your system or device. A cyber criminal may use malware to steal information or carry out malicious activities.

Cyber criminals are experts at making malware look like a legitimate file or software program, such as anti-virus software. Malware can interfere with your ability to use your computer or device as intended. For example, some malware redirects you to a third‑party site when you attempt to use the search function in your Internet browser.

The most common ways you can get malware

Downloading programs is the most common way to infect your device with malware. For example, you may download a software application that looks legitimate but that is actually malware designed to hack your computer. But direct downloads while browsing websites aren’t the only way you can get malware. You might infect your computer or device by opening or downloading  attachments or clicking on links in emails or text messages.

How to protect yourself

Install and use anti-malware software

One of the best ways to protect yourself from malware is to download anti-malware software.

Anti-malware software provides an extra layer of security when you download something. You can be set up the software to run automatically so that files are scanned as they are downloaded. You can also set up your anti-malware software to perform scheduled scans of your computer.

Beware of downloads

Where does malware come from? Downloads.

That’s why it’s so important to be careful when downloading something from the internet. Stopping malicious software at the source keeps you – and your computer – safe. Choose official app stores to download apps, updates and modifications, and use caution when opening attachments or clicking on links in suspicious emails.

Spot the signs of malware being on your computer

The best way to protect yourself from malware is to stop it from ever ending up on your computer or device in the first place. But the reality is that your device may be infected. Spotting the signs of malware is the next step in protecting yourself. The signs aren’t always obvious. Some malware can run secretly in the background. In other cases, though, there are telltale signs such as programs crashing without warning, your computer freezing, and general poor performance.

If you think your device has been infected with malware, disconnect it from your Wi-Fi network. Scan your device with anti-malware software to confirm whether malware is present. If the device is owned by your employer, you should contact your IT department as soon as possible. If your personal device has been infected with malware, contact a reputable IT service provider.


Malware is one of the most common methods of cyber attacks. But there are steps you can take to make yourself less vulnerable.

By doing what you can to educate yourself, you’re less likely to become a victim of cyber crimes.

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