Why Malware Prevention is More Important than Ever Before for Small Businesses

We have all heard of massive, large-scale cyber attacks on big corporations. Most recently, Sony has been the subject of numerous cyber attacks both to its own servers and its PlayStation Network.[1]Although this can be embarrassing, there are significant consequences beyond the immediate shame. Stolen credit card information, hacked emails, and even finger stroke detection can occur as the result of a cyber attack of any kind. But, this phenomenon isn’t reserved solely for large corporations. In fact, many small businesses are looking to invest heavily in malware prevention, and for good reason.

What is Malware?

Before discussing more about malware prevention, let us define what “malware” is. If you own a small business and operate your own website, then you are at risk of “contracting” malware. The term “malware” is a compound of “malicious software,” and it can get into your website through a number of different avenues. If you need your website to conduct business, malware can be a frustrating bug to deal with.

Sometimes, malware can enter your server based solely on a weak password or even a brief visit to an already infected site.[2] Malware can also get into your business’s system through other infected devices. For instance, if an employee brings their infected laptop and connects to your work network, then the malware can easily spread.[3]

In most cases, the malware gets onto your network through more clandestine means. The most nefarious form of malware is a “bot.” Short for “robot,” a bot can infiltrate your system in numerous ways, including:

• Inadvertently downloading malware code that looks like a simple video

• Visiting a site that has already been infected with a bot

• Downloading a virus from an email attachment[4]

The real issue with bots is not that they get into your website; it is what they can do once they are there. Bots are automated programs that link back to a command and control center. The center is responsible for operating bots on numerous compromised machines. That is to say, if your website is the subject of a malware bot attack, then it’s likely that many other websites have endured the same fate from the same originator. Bots can pilfer important details like:

• Keystroke logs (to figure out passwords)

• Financial details of your clients

• Digital packets

They can also produce cyber attacks and open back doors in the host’s system.[5] Beyond these obvious issues, malware can also shut down your website without you even knowing it. Google indexes over 6,000 malware-infected websites each day and puts these websites on a blacklist as part of its global plan for malware prevention. It practically becomes impossible to find your website, and most browsers (like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome) will prevent people from accessing your website altogether to avoid the spread of malware.[6]

A good Malware prevention plan will minimize the chances of a browser blocking your site without you knowing it.
Google indexes over 6,000 malware-infected websites each day and puts these websites on a blacklist as part of its global plan for malware prevention. It practically becomes impossible to find your website, and most browsers (like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome) will prevent people from accessing your website altogether to avoid the spread of malware.

Engaging in Malware Prevention Practices

A small business can help prevent the spread of malware by engaging in a few cost-effective practices such as purchasing an antivirus program. A simple antivirus won’t cure everything, but this form of malware prevention will stop a significant amount of bugs from getting into your website. Indeed, most standard antivirus programs offer over 8 million built-in preventative techniques to keep malware at bay.[7] Always keep your antivirus software running and up-to-date to eliminate these basic threats.

That being said, there are some malware viruses that are just too crafty and end up making it past your system. It’s important to remain vigilant about malware prevention. Don’t click any links from unidentified senders. Always make sure you are signing in to your actual website portal and not something that appears to be your website portal. This is a tactic known as “phishing” in which hackers will create familiar replicas of your sign-in page and then take the information you submitted to gain access to your website.

It’s also always a good idea to ask your website host if security comes standard with your package, as many have malware prevention software available for free or for a slight up-charge to your current plan. If they offer additional security benefits for a higher fee, consider opting for it.[8] A 2014 study by the UK-based Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed that over a quarter of small to mid-sized businesses incurred a cyber attack of some kind.[9] Clearly, this is something that could damage your business, and it is certainly worth protecting.

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