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The increase in reports of cyber threats over the past year has illuminated the Internet’s inherent dangers, thus raising concerns as to how to business owners can protect their companies from computer viruses and other looming security threats.

Although many companies are (rightfully) investing in high-quality anti-malware and anti-spyware software, the potential still exists to fall prey to cybercrime.

Cybercrime is a booming business and criminals’ tools continue to evolve in both sophistication and potential damage. Acquiring—usually by theft—and selling sensitive information is highly lucrative. Such information includes:

  • Passwords
  • Banking information
  • Credit/debit card numbers
  • Intellectual property

Additionally, cyber criminals often attempt to inject malicious software such as viruses, worms, and other malware to send spam, display advertising, or commit other nefarious and illegal activities.


According to Symantec, over three billion malware attacks occurred in 2010. This number has continued to climb, thus resulting in the development of more sophisticated software to protect sensitive personal and business data.

Even more recently, PWC reported that cybercrime rose from fourth to second place among types of economic crime. In a 2016 survey, over 25 percent of respondents reported having been affected by cybercrime, while 18 percent said they didn’t know if they had. Further, several respondents reported losses of over $5 million, with almost one-third of respondents reporting cybercrime losses of over $100 million.

So how can a company protect itself from computer viruses and other cyber threats? It’s important to first understand what those threats look like.

Types of Malware

Malware combines the words “malicious” and “software,” and it is an umbrella term for most types of computer threats installed on one’s computer without his/her consent or knowledge. Malware includes:

  • Spyware—to spy on computer users’ activities to steal sensitive information
  • Viruses—self-replicating software that can alter/destroy data or cripple systems
  • Adware—displays pop-up ads
  • Scareware—mimics legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware products, thus encouraging users to download—and often pay for—an infected solution; also called rogue security software
  • Botnets—networks of infected computers that perform illicit activities
  • Worms—computer code that spreads on its own by scanning the infected computer for email addresses and then sending infected email messages to others
  • Trojan horses—malicious software programs that hide in other programs, enter the computer via a legitimate program, and place code into the operating system that the hacker can use to access the computer

How Malware is Spread

A computer can become infected with malware through:

  • Infected email attachments
  • Downloaded software
  • Email links
  • Social media websites
  • Instant messages
  • Infected removable storage like thumb drives, for example

Preventing Malware Infection

All individuals and companies should worry because any computer can be the victim of malware. Knowledge and prevention are key.

  1. Install quality, professional, business-grade anti-virus software. These types update more frequently and provide greater real-time protection against emerging vulnerabilities.
  2. Ensure all anti-malware applications are current. They all require regular database and signature updates, and it is imperative for users to keep licenses current as well.
  3. Perform daily scans to add another layer of protection to the myriad potential threats lurking around the Internet.
  4. Disable auto-run to prevent certain viruses from automatically attaching and installing themselves to all connected media.
  5. Disable email image previews, especially in Outlook.
  6. Never click on email links or attachments unless they are first scanned for viruses, even if they are from a trusted source.
  7. Employ the anti-malware’s applications such as browser plug-ins, link protection, and pop-up blockers.
  8. Ensure employees never enter any sensitive information on any web page to which they haven’t manually navigated.
  9. Employ a hardware-based firewall for greater reliability than is offered with software-based firewalls, even professional-grade ones.
  10. Use DNS protection to prevent a compromised DNS server from directing employees to unauthorized web servers.

For more information about how you can protect your company from cybercrime, including cyber liability insurance, please contact us.