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Malware is an umbrella term that covers any malicious software program designed to infiltrate or exploit devices and systems without the owner’s consent or knowledge. Viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, ransomware and rootkits are just some examples of malware.

Hackers use a wide range of physical and virtual means to spread malware across the global network including infecting external USB drives, leveraging collaboration tools, exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities and drive-by downloads. Once installed malware can perform any number of functions including stealing passwords, locking out entire environments or commandeering infected devices to power botnets.

Attackers also leverage the ubiquity of social media to spread malware. Emails spoofing the appearance of trusted senders can be used to trick recipients into submitting personal information, clicking on links or downloading and installing programs. The result can be devastating. Imagine a child’s credit being ruined because of identity theft, an organization’s business processes being disrupted by ransomware or the company’s data being held hostage by an adversary demanding a ransom payment to release it.

The most effective defense against malware is to be vigilant and practice good security hygiene. Educate employees about the dangers of clicking on links or downloading files and be sure to keep your operating system updated with the latest patches.