What is Malware and How Can You Protect Your Website Against It?
In the last decade, malware has risen to prominence as a favored tactic of cybercriminals. However, its history goes back even further than that.
The idea of computer viruses can be traced back to 1949, in a paper written by early computer scientist John von Neuman. However, it was not until the early 70s that the first actual virus, “Creeper Worm” was seen, which copied itself onto remote systems. And as we moved into the 80s and early 90s, a rise in malicious software with programs like the “Michelangelo Virus” and “Morris Worm” was observed. Since then, there has been an unprecedented surge in the use of malware by cyber attackers.
What is malware?
Malware is the term used for describing any type of software that has malicious intent behind it, meaning, any software designed to exploit a loophole in services, networks, or programmable devices.
These programs are typically used for extracting data that cybercriminals use to their benefit, like financial gain. And today, the data that can be extracted through malicious activities is almost endless.
As malware comes in several variants, it can infect computer systems in numerous ways. Though varied in capabilities and types, malware usually has any of the following objectives:
- Provide remote control to an attacker to use an infected machine
- Send spam to unsuspecting targets
- Investigate the local network of the infected user
- Steal sensitive data
What does malware do?
Malware is designed to infect networks and devices and harm their users in some way.
Depending on the malware type and its goal, the harm may display differently at the endpoint or to the user. While the effect that malware has is relatively benign and mild, it can be very disastrous under the wrong circumstances.
Irrespective of the method, all types of malware exploit devices at the user’s expense and to the hacker’s benefit – the person who has designed and deployed the malware.
One such common malware attack is a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack. It is a malicious attempt to disrupt the regular traffic of a targeted service, server, or network by overwhelming either the target or its surrounding infrastructure with heavy internet traffic.
A DDoS attack is like an unexpected traffic jam clogging up the road, preventing regular traffic from reaching its destination.
What are the different types of malware?
Malware is an inclusive term for a variety of malicious software. We have listed some common types of malware below:
Adware is mostly targeted at people in exchange for another service, such as software that you do not pay for. If the product is free, then you are probably the product.
Trojan-horse is a widely known type of malware. Trojans usually pretend to be harmless applications. The user downloads them and unknowingly allows the application to steal their personal data. Some Trojans can also launch a malicious attack or crash your device.
Exactly as the name says, this malware type is used for spying on people. While predominantly used by government agencies and law, it is also available to customers.
Usually installed on your computer without your knowledge, spyware transmits your personal data and activities like web browsing activity.
At one point or another, most people have encountered an alarming pop-up message warning them that their computer has been infected. If you also encounter such a message at any time, you should always ignore it. Most of the time, it is just to scare you into downloading a rogue application.
Worms are self-replicating viruses that exploit security vulnerabilities and spread across networks and computers. Unlike many other viruses, malware worms do not alter files or attach to existing programs. They typically go unnoticed until the replications reach a scale that consumes significant network bandwidth and system resources.
How to figure out if your website is infected with malware?
The signs of malware may not be obvious to you or your visitors. For example, website owners may assume that website defacement, an attack that distorts a website’s visual interface is the only way of knowing that your website has malware. However, two things that make malware so effective are its ability to hide and its elusiveness.
Some common signs that you should keep an eye out for are:
- You are getting a lot of pop-up ads
- You have issues shutting down your computer or start it
- You are repetitively getting warnings that your computer is not safe. These warnings are usually followed by messages to purchase software to fix these issues. Do not do it.
- You get a lot of browser redirects. This is when you click on a website, but then your browser takes you to some other website, one that looks suspicious, and you did not have any intention of visiting.
- Your computer is running awfully slow. It could be because you have an old device or need a processor upgrade. However, if the slow speed is accompanied by some issues stated above, a malware infection is highly possible.
Even if your website has not been defaced, you may still have malware if:
- Your website files are deleted or modified without your knowledge
- Your website crashes or freezes
- Your account login information is changed without your consent
- You have experienced an evident change to your search engine results, such as harmful content warnings or a blacklisting status.
- You have experienced an increase or a rapid drop in traffic
If any of these common signs appear, there is a high chance that your website is infected.
When your website is infected with malware, your website traffic, reputation, and revenue will take a hit. Suspicious malware signs or activities on your website make your page appear untrustworthy, thus damaging your credibility and preventing visitors from returning.
In fact, many shoppers who have had their personal information stolen tend not to return to the website where their information was compromised – a loss that many businesses and websites could not afford.
Fortunately, preventing malware infections is easy, affordable, and a worthwhile investment for your website’s success.
How to protect a website from malware?
Below, we have outlined five different ways to make your website more secure and protect it against malware:
1. Scan your website regularly
Scan your website regularly for potential malware. Using a service like Security Check in your ManageWP dashboard, you can easily scan your website for potential vulnerabilities and altered files. Moreover, you’ll also be able to locate where the weak spots are as this feature flags outdated software and error. This allows you to act on time and fix them before the hackers use them to gain access to your system.
2. Do regular backups
Regular website backups guarantee quick data restoration in case of a malware attack. Remember to always store backups offsite, so you can preserve your files if your hosting server gets compromised due to power outages or security breaches. Just like security scans, you can activate the Backup feature in your ManageWP dashboard.
3. Perform updates
Many websites get infections due to an outdated WordPress version. Secure your website by regularly updating your themes and plugins.
Sometimes, you may find that certain updates affect your site’s performance and function. A plugin may stop working or prove to be incompatible with your WordPress version. Your website can crash or cause downtimes, affecting your business operations. It is crucial to implement safe updates. With ManageWP SafeUpdates and a backup in place, you can update your WordPress without fear.
4. Upgrade your hosting plan
If you are currently using a shared hosting plan, consider upgrading it to managed WordPress hosting. You can also opt for Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting to easily scale your business with flexible resources or dedicated hosting for an enterprise hosting experience.
Although advanced web hosting plans tend to have a higher price, they come with enhanced security features that can help keep your website safe. The features usually include SSL certificates, 24/7 security monitoring, and more.
5. Install a malware detector
Installing a malware detector safeguards your website against malicious attempts.
One of the widely preferred choices of malware detectors is SiteLock. It is easy, economical, and effective. SiteLock’s remarkable features include:
Automatically prevents attacks – Monitors your website 24/7 for attacks and vulnerabilities
Boosts customer trust – The SiteLock seal not only reassures customers about security but also boosts sales
Starts working instantly – You do not need technical expertise to set up and install SiteLock. It is cloud-based and starts scanning your email and website instantly.