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Malware is software that interferes with computer systems, networks and mobile devices. Cybercriminals use it to steal data, disrupt business operations and cause damage.

Malicious programs are spread when you click on a malicious link in an email, download an application from untrustworthy sources or open an attachment that contains malware. Depending on the type of malware, attackers can take complete control of your device and begin to accomplish their goals. The most common types of malware are viruses, worms and Trojans. Viruses insert themselves into files and can spread from system to system, while worms self-replicate without the need for a host program. Trojans disguise themselves as a useful program to gain unauthorized access to a system, stealing information and monitoring activity. Other malware types include adware, cryptojacking and ransomware.

A recent report by the cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes revealed that hackers are using new techniques to hide malware, including incorporating it into the firmware of USB sticks and flash drives. This makes it difficult for anti-virus software to detect and remove the threat.

The report also found that adware is now more prevalent than ever. It’s largely due to the popularity of social media, with apps like Facebook and Snapchat that are used to deliver rogue advertisements and links to phishing sites. Ransomware is becoming the most popular malware, with attacks like WannaCry and its ilk forcing companies to pay ransom to retrieve their data back in 2017.

The good news is that you can protect your computers and devices from malware infections. For example, don’t visit websites with many different versions of browsers or PDF readers and instead install trusted software from a website that offers the software you want to use. Likewise, don’t click on links in emails or text messages and instead type the website address directly into your browser.