In recent years, there has been an increase in cases involving the theft of personal financial information and data through the means of malicious software, or â€œmalwareâ€.
This type of software represents a broad class of programming, which is designed and released with malicious purpose and intent.
Malware is commonly referred to as a â€œvirusâ€ or as a computer-based â€œbugâ€. The reason being, it is designed to spread like a human-based illness with contagion properties. If it infects one computer system and comes in contact with another, it will also infect that system.
If consumers fail to take the measures that are necessary to protect their computers, a malware infection is likely to occur. This type of software has the capability of capturing the keystrokes that are performed on the system, destroy the data contained therein, and steal any and all personal financial information.
Ransomware is a specially-designed type of malware that officials are seeing in abundance. This particular type of malicious software is designed to completely restrict a consumerâ€™s access to their computer and/or their smartphone. It will then, seemingly, hold that device like a hostage â€“ demanding that a â€œransomâ€ is paid.
This has been prevalent among businesses; however, many consumers have also been directly impacted by this type of malware.
To date, systems utilizing the operating systems of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 have been targeted. The â€œransomâ€ pushed by this type of malware may demand excess amounts of money. Not only does this type of malicious software have the ability to hold your data hostage, but, it also has the ability to steal personal information that could detrimentally impact your identity and your financial livelihood.
The Infection and Spread of Malware
There are numerous ways for malware to infect and spread through computers and smartphones. The most common method is through an attachment sent within an email.
Many malware infections may be contained within a link that is placed within an email or even a post through a social media website or an online forum.
The link will often use persuasive language to heighten a personâ€™s interest. Once an attachment is downloaded or a link is clicked, the malicious software infects the computer system or the smartphone.
If a computer is infected and it is located on a network, the malware will spread and infect the remaining systems. If portable devices â€“ such as external hard drives or flash drives â€“ are in place at the time of the infection, they, too, will be detrimentally impacted.
There are many different protection measures that consumers may take to protect their financial information and their data from malware. Examples include:
- Consumers should utilize an anti-virus software program that offers comprehensive protection against malware intrusions. Once installed, the program should be set to automatically update and run system scans.
- If email is used, junk mail filtering systems should be utilized.
- Email attachments should not be downloaded unless an anti-virus program first scans the attachment and clears it from containing malicious code.
- Links within an email should never be clicked â€“ especially if they appear to be suspicious and/or are unsolicited.
- Websites that appear to contain suspicious content should be completely avoided.