Article tags

Estimated reading time is 3 minutes.

Learn about common types of malware and their purposes

Malware is short for malicious software. Malware describes viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, ransomware and other malicious programs.

The cyber criminal’s goal is to cause your computer to malfunction, cause damage, disruption or gain unauthorised access to your information for financial gain.

Different malware programs are designed for different purposes including:

  • monitoring your keyboard strokes to obtain passwords or credit card details
  • monitoring incoming and outgoing emails
  • locking all your files and asking you to pay a ransom to retrieve the key.

Ransomware attacks are becoming more frequent

Worldwide, criminals are distributing a type of malware called ransomware at a prolific rate.

This malicious software is spread using convincing emails such as traffic infringement notices, parcel collection notices, and electricity bills.

Once installed on a computer, ransomware encrypts (locks) all of your files – documents, photo, videos, music – making them completely inaccessible.

It then presents a pop-up window demanding a ransom to be paid in order to regain access to the files.

Unfortunately without the encryption key, it is impossible to regain access to the files.

Put measures in place to prevent attacks

Keep your software up to date

Malware is always changing as criminals get smarter and smarter.

Keeping your operating system, browser and applications up-to-date is essential to help protect your computer. Ensure system updates are set to automatically update.

Visit Microsoft and Apple for further information.

Use anti-virus software

Anti-virus software can help keep your computer and mobile devices safe. Once you have it installed, make sure you keep it up-to-date.

If you’re unsure how, contact an IT professional or contact Microsoft or Apple about setting up automatic updates on your operating system.

We even provide you with a free six month offer of anti-virus.

Create backups

It’s good practice to keep copies of your important files (such as document and photos). These copies are known as a backup. You can backup your important files on a separate device to your computer, such as a USB memory stick, portable hard drive or CD. Make sure you store your backups separately from your computer.

This ensures that if your computer does become infected, you will be able to restore your files after you clean your system.

Learn how to identify a malware attack

While some types of malware such as a keylogger or a trojan may show no obvious signs, there are a few things you can look out for that might be an indication that your computer is infected:

  • Your computer takes longer than normal to start.
  • Your computer keeps crashing.
  • There are new, unfamiliar icons on your desktop.
  • Your computer is running unusually slow (for example, programs take longer than normal to load).

Also look for changes to files like:

  • files that normally should be accessible are suddenly inaccessible
  • files have been edited, though no changes in them should have occurred
  • files appear, disappear or undergo significant and unexpected changes in size.

What to do if you’re affected by malware

If you suspect that you have malware on your computer, the first thing to do is disconnect that computer from the internet and any other devices it’s networked with. This helps ensure the infection doesn’t spread from one device to others.

Confirm that your anti-virus is up-to-date and run a scan immediately.

You can find more information on Windows PCs on the Microsoft website, or for your Mac, check Apple’s website.

Depending on the type of malware, you may be able to clean the infection, or you may need to take more serious measures. If you don’t feel confident to perform these actions to clean your computer, contact an IT professional.

Helpful resources

Encrypting sensitive information

How to protect your sensitive personal and business information with data encryption.

Keep your mobile devices and apps secure

Your mobile device is the portal to almost every detail about you. So it's important to keep it secure.

6 simple ways to protect your passwords

Good password management, like using strong passwords, will help you stay cyber-safe.

How to identify spam and phishing messages

Be on the lookout for suspicious messages and avoid being a target of cyber-criminals.