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Malware is any type of malicious software that infiltrates or infects computers, computer systems, mobile devices, tablets, or enterprise networks. This software is used by bad actors for a variety of reasons – from making money to damaging a company’s reputation and trustworthiness.

Cybercriminals deliver malware in a multitude of ways, including phishing attempts, exploiting vulnerabilities in software programs, posing as legitimate websites, and more. Once on your system, malware can steal data or disrupt your device’s normal functioning.

For example, ransomware encrypts your files and demands a payment to decrypt them, while Trojans or backdoor viruses secretly create a back door into the infected system to enable threat actors to remotely access it without alerting users or their security programs. Spyware records and transmits keystrokes, records audio and video, and observes your activities without your consent. Adware displays a barrage of pop-up ads and can slow down your devices. Bots allow attackers to take over your device completely.

You might notice a sudden decline in your computer’s performance or that you have less available storage space on your mobile device. You might also receive unexpected emails, texts, or phone calls from people claiming to be tech support and asking you to click on a link or download an app to fix a virus they’ve detected.

No matter the motive, it’s clear that malware can cause serious damage to your systems and your livelihood. At the very least, it could cost you money to repair or replace your devices and software, notify customers and clients of a data breach, and possibly face lawsuits and fines if you’re a business. At the worst, it can expose your sensitive information for sale on the dark web or even lead to identity theft and fraud.