Some people carry the misinformed notion that malicious software – also known as malware – is only a risk to those who dabble in the dark web, torrent files back and forth, and practice other generally unsavoury behaviours while online.
That idea could not be blinder or any further from the actual truth: Everyone who works, plays, runs a business, or communicates online is at risk of acquiring malware. Also, since just about everyone with some Internet-capable device is doing one of those things online most of their waking hours, that means pretty much everyone is at risk.
Shocking malware statistics
Malware is brutal, no matter if it hits you at home or work. The average cost of a malware attack on a company is around $2.4 million and 50 days of fixing things. Ransomware costs in 2017 alone exceeded $5 billion, more than 15 times as much as was lost in 2015.
The average cost per lost or stolen records for a single person is $141 – that’s worldwide. The US ($225) and Canada ($190) are the hardest hit.
China is the biggest culprit of cyber-attacks. In 2017, more than 20% came from Chian, 11% from the US, and 6% from the Russian federation.
Staying safe versus malware
Regardless if you are a business leader or a concerned citizen, the No. 1 safety device against malware invading your computer is antivirus software. Research what makes the most sense for you and trial some free offers before settling on one, but get it up and running before the next time you’re online, or you might lose sensitive information that will come back to haunt you someday.
Internal security is the next best practice. Do not let any unauthorised person use your computer under any circumstances. Going hand in hand with this is not sharing passwords or log-in information. Letting someone else have your credentials is like giving them the keys to your car and hoping they don’t just drive away.
A ton of malware waltzes into your computer’s life via email. When opening your inbox, be smart about which pieces of mail are real and from verified sources, and which look like they might be spam. Even if the spam messages look ridiculous, that does not mean at the source is not something more cunning. Simply opening some emails can trigger a download that lets malware into your computer where it can wreak all sorts of havoc on your system. If you’re being requested to click a link from an email, copy it and paste it into your address box to see if it looks legitimate. If you’re having your doubts, do a Google search for the link and see if it comes up. The Internet is excellent about reporting scams and spams, and if that link pops up, you’ll know not to click on it.
Subscribe for entrepreneurial & small business advice
Subscribe to our newsletter for advice and insights on starting, managing and growing a small business in the UK.
Ditto for fake websites. Easy ways to know that a website is not what it claims to be included: poor grammar or misspelt words in the text; old or fuzzy graphics and mastheads; requests that you fill in way more information than any normal website would want, including things such as your social security number or credit card information.