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Jan
04
Protecting Yourself from Malware with Better Password Security

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In Week 1 of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) we looked at spoofed emails, cybercriminals' preferred method of spreading malware. Today, in an effort to provide you with the best information out there to keep you safe online, we're hitting you with a double dose of cybersafety news.
Let's take look at the topics for Week 2 and 3 of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: malware and password security. They're separate but related issues in the world of Internet crime prevention, and a better understanding of each is key to protecting your property and personal information in today's digital world.
Malware
Malware is an umbrella term used to describe software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. If you'd like, you can take a moment and watch this video on malware from Norton Security. But the best way to begin protecting yourself against this stuff is to learn about all the different types of malware that can affect your computer. There are tons, so we'll just go over the broader categories for now.
Viruses: Malicious bits of code that replicate by copying themselves to another program, computer boot sector, or document and change how a computer works. Viruses are typically attached to an executable file or program and spread once a user opens that file and executes it.
Worms: They're like viruses, but are different in terms of the way they're spread. Worms typically exploit a vulnerability or a weakness that allows an attacker to reduce a system's information assurance. Missed that last Windows update? You might be more vulnerable to worms.
Trojans: These look like legitimate pieces of software and are activated after a user executes them. Unlike a virus or a worm, a trojan does not replicate a copy of itself. Instead, it lurks silently in the background, compromising users' sensitive personal data.
Ransomware: This refers to a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system's screen or by locking or threatening to erase the users' files unless a ransom is paid. You may recall the WannaCry attack that affected users across the globe this summer, only to be thwarted by the accidental discovery of a "kill switch" that saved people from the malicious software.
Spyware: This malware collects your personal information (such as credit card numbers) and often passes this information along to third parties online without you knowing.
You can check out more descriptions and examples of the types of malware that exist today at MalwareFox, a malware detection and removal software program.
Tips for Protecting Yourself Against Malware
Staying malware-free doesn't require an engineering degree. You can greatly reduce, if not completely eliminate, your chances of falling victim to malware by following these easy tips.

Keep your operating system current.
Keep your software up to date, particularly the software you use to browse the Internet.
Install antivirus and security software and schedule weekly scans. At TechSoup, we're protected by Symantec Endpoint Protection. At home, there are dozens of solutions you can use to protect yourself (PCMag lists many here).
Mind where you click. Think twice before you download torrent videos or free Microsoft Office templates from some random website.
Avoid public, nonpassword, nonencrypted Wi-Fi connections when you can. Use a VPN when you cannot.

Spread the Word
Let people know that TechSoup is helping you become more #CyberAware by sharing a message on your social media channels. If you tag @TechSoup on Twitter, we'll retweet the first two tweets. Remember, we're all in this together.
Password Security
Now that we've covered the nasty stuff that can make your life miserable if it ends