Let’s face it, 2020 hasn’t been very kind to us so far. The devastating wildfires in Australia that started in 2019 and continued right on into 2020, record-level stock market volatility and a massive glacier collapse near Machu Picchu that triggered massive mudslides and flooding are just a few of the tragedies that we’ve witnessed this year. And then, of course, there’s the coronavirus pandemic, which is threatening widespread and long-lasting uncertainty and disruption to our lives. There’s even coronavirus malware. And while the malware might seem small scale as compared to the larger disasters headlining the news lately, the fact is the coronavirus malware can inflict its own form of damage: it can steal a user’s banking credentials and other personal information such as passwords and usernames and generally cause all sorts of hazards, inconvenience and anxiety. The malware might also be used for performing remote attacks and to infect computers with other types of malware.
However, there is some good news hidden in all this chaos. The wildfires are finally over, pollution is down as a result of coronavirus-imposed bans on travel and other activities, a number of companies have announced progress in their effort to create a vaccine for the coronavirus, and there are already very effective cybersecurity measures you can take to keep your computer and your data safe from coronavirus malware. Chief among these cybersecurity measures are awareness, software patches, and antivirus software.
Perhaps the most overlooked component of effective cybersecurity is awareness. With awareness comes an understanding of what the latest cyber threats are, how they can impact you if you’re attacked, and what you can do to mitigate risks. Since cyber criminals rely on lack of information and the public’s fear of the virus for their malware attacks to succeed, anyone who has self-quarantined or is isolated should make a special effort to stay informed and aware about coronavirus malware. They should know how to recognize it, its different variations, and how it delivers its payload.
Equally important are software patches, especially for our operating systems. Operating systems manage your computer’s hardware and software as well as its memory and processes. The problem is that they often have vulnerabilities and hackers are constantly trying to find new exploits for attacking them. When software developers discover these exploits, they race to fix the vulnerability in the operating system and send the patch with the fix to users so that their computers and data won’t be compromised. This is why it is essential that you don’t ignore pop-ups notifying you that there are security patches available. When you get these notifications, install the security patch without delay in order to minimize your risk of being attacked.
And then there is hygiene. Only instead of personal hygiene, we’re referring to cyber hygiene – keeping your computer clean and free of malware and viruses. The most comprehensive way to do this is with antivirus (AV) software. AV software is highly effective at detecting and removing cyber threats and in fact can stop more than 95% of the cyber threats out there including the coronavirus malware. Surprised? Here’s why: Although coronavirus malware does rely on sophisticated social engineering to persuade users to open infected emails or click on malicious links, the coronavirus malware itself is not really a new malware, as it relies on known malicious software called AZORult. The AZORult malware has been around since 2016.
The remaining 5% of viruses that can’t be caught? You’re unlikely to get hit by them since they tend to be very specialized and rare. The takeaway here is that antivirus software goes a very long way toward keeping your computer and data safe from cyberattacks.
Lean in toward better coronavirus safety
It’s time to embrace better coronavirus safety in both the physical world and the digital world. We need to practice better personal and cyber hygiene and stay informed and aware. We should understand, for example, that there is no benefit to be achieved from hoarding toilet paper and that opening emails from dubious senders invites a lot of potential risk. We’re all concerned right now, but we need to lean in towards being more responsible in our physical and our digital lives. And at least in the cyber domain, staying safe is relatively easy.