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Malware is malicious software that gains unauthorized access to devices, websites, and networks for sinister purposes like data breaches, identity theft, espionage, and more. It comes in different forms, from encrypting files to ransomware and much more. Malware is a cybercriminal’s most powerful tool in the arsenal and it is the most common way hackers attack users.

There are several ways malware gets on your system. Most malware infections start with you clicking a link or downloading an attachment from scummy sites or emails. USB drives and file-sharing programs can also contain malware that can spread to other devices on a network. Worms, which replicate on their own and use security holes in systems to spread, are one of the most destructive types of malware. Logic bombs, which lie dormant until a specific condition is met, are another type of malware.

Other malware can record keystrokes and send them back to attackers to get passwords, bank account information, or other sensitive data. A keylogger is a typical example of this type of malware. Bots, spyware, and rootkits are other types of malware that require back and forth communication with a command and control server and are designed to stay hidden from the victim, other programs, and the operating system itself.

A sudden unexplained increase in your phone or tablet’s Internet activity could be a sign of malware, especially if it is communicating with remote servers. You should also check your device settings to see if any apps have been given admin privileges (which can make them harder to remove). Toggle the permissions for the app in question to disable them, then navigate to the Settings app and tap on Security to see if there are any rogue apps listed there.