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Malware is software or firmware that performs unauthorized processes and has an adverse impact on the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of an information system. This can include viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware and adware.

Threat actors use a wide range of physical and virtual mechanisms to spread malware that infects systems and networks, including USB drives, popular collaboration tools, and drive-by downloads (malware downloaded automatically without user approval or knowledge). Malware includes a broad spectrum of malicious code, from stealthy loaders and stagers that subvert detection with a light payload, to droppers that bind themselves to non-executable files, to actual payloads such as keyloggers that spy on users or cryptomining software that generates money for hackers.

The most common form of malware, ransomware, encrypts files and locks the victim out of their system, typically demanding payment to restore access to data. These attacks are growing more frequent, with the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report showing that the average ransom demand has increased 13% over the previous year.

To keep your information safe, be cautious when opening unsolicited links or attachments, even if they appear to come from a trusted source. If you suspect that your computer is infected with malware, run a free on-demand scanner or contact a professional to get the problem under control. Also watch for performance declines and unexpected network activity: processes that consume too many resources, devices communicating with unknown servers, or changes to device configurations that allow attackers to bypass security solutions.