Malware vs Ransomware – Discover The Differences and How To Protect Yourself

Have you ever had a headache where you can barely open your eyes? What about a headache in your forehead area or right on your temples? Even though I rarely experienced headaches when I was growing up, as an adult I’ve had different types.

Headaches have different levels of intensity, and symptoms that accompany the headaches can vary, too.

Ransomware and malware are both malicious codes or programs created with the intention to disrupt your cyber world. Like headaches, malware and ransomware have similar symptoms and prevention methods. Ransomware is one of the many types of Malware that exist. Let’s explore malware vs ransomware in more detail.

What is the Difference Between Ransomware and Malware?

Ransomware and malware are scary words related to cyber attacks or data breaches. Malware is short for malicious software: programs or files that get on your computer, which Cybermonsters use with the intention of harming your computer or device and accessing your information without your authorization. 

malware vs ransomware

Malware

There are many different types of malware or infected programs. These include viruses, computer worms, trojan horses, key-loggers, bugs, rootkits and spyware.

Each specific type of malware has different functionalities and they work in different ways. Malware is commonly received in phishing emails. When we open an email that contains a link, it may be a malicious link that could install malware. This can be done behind the scenes. You may not even notice what actually happens when you click the malicious link!

Another way to get malware is by clicking an infected link. When this happens, you are redirected to a dangerous site that downloads the malware on the computer. It may ask you to type your password, pretending to be a real service. This is done with the intention to steal your credentials, so always check before entering your account information. 

Malware can also be embedded within documents or files in email attachments, which triggers the malware installation.

Cybermonsters use many ways to distribute malware. In addition to phishing emails, infected social media sites and infected USB drives could also serve as malware sources 

Malware could also get into a device through Public WiFi and smart public charges. Incorporate pausing and breathing for a few seconds before clicking anything or connecting your devices in public places. Practicing this on a regular basis activates your mind, and you will notice much more quickly if something is suspicious.     

When malware attacks kicks in, and activates the malicious intent, Cybermonsters could compromise your personal computer, mobile devices, and computer networks and compromise your sensitive data or compromise your financial information.

The Biggest Threats of Malware

Malware can corrupt, steal, damage, delete, slow down your computer, and take control of your login credentials to access your sensitive information. It could also try mining cryptocurrency using your computer resources, or it could activate services that can cost you money (like apps subscriptions or premium rate phone calls) and so much more.

These malware programs or a subset of malware may try to propagate to your entire network and/or it may try to take full control of your system. Some forms of malware could even hide and remain unnoticed.

Ransomware

Now you’re probably wondering, what is the difference? Malware vs Ransomware – how can you identify which is which? Ransomware is a type of malicious software or malware that, like a headache, manifests differently and produces other effects.

When a ransomware infection happens, it means that all access to your files is locked down and a payment demand appears on your screen, which you must comply with in order to recover your information and obtain the decryption key to unlock your data. 

Ransomware could affect your computer, your mobile devices and your entire network. There are many ransomware variants and attack techniques, yet what they have in common is that your data or computer access will be locked. This includes your data files, your video files, your personal files, your system files, and your hard drive or storage systems.

When Cybermonsters gain access to your systems, they may copy, delete, or tamper your data before they carry out the intention of their ransomware attack. Once they do that, Cybermonsters will use extortion tactics and threaten you or your company to release sensitive information, such as your employees’ identifiable information, your intellectual property, or your customers’ data. This tactic is used to increase the chances of you paying for the ransom.

Who is at Risk From a Ransomware Attack?

If you ever use a computer, a phone, an electronic device, or any systems, networks or technology that is connected to the Internet, you could be a victim of ransomware. 

You don’t have to be rich, famous or own a large corporation. It can happen to anyone. However, cyber safety practices are also available to anyone, so you can be in charge. My mission is to make cyber safety simple, easy, and enjoyable, so you can achieve cyber peace of mind.

malware vs ransomware differences

How to Deal With Ransomware

Advanced threats such as a ransomware attack can be devastating, and generates chaos, whether the attack happened to your personal data and to your business.

When a ransomware note is found, it is best to remain calm, centered and grounded. The next critical step is to immediately disconnect the infected computer or system to prevent further spread of the malware. I shared some steps you can follow when you are the victim of a cyber attack. 

In my experience, cultivating mindfulness increases focus, attention and awareness. It is a daily practice I am committed to. 

How this can help you, your workforce and your cybersecurity team protect your systems from malware vs ransomware, and other cyber attacks? The answer is simple. A present mind will help you stay cyber safe online!

Should You Pay the Ransom When Your Computer is Infected?

During a ransomware attack, Cybercriminals will provide specific instructions on how to execute the payment they requested. They even provide you with instructions that will assist you in the process of complying with their demands. 

Paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee that you will recover your information or that you won’t get attacked at a later time. 

The FBI doesn’t support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack, because it encourages cyber criminals to target more victims and provides other criminals the incentive to get involved in this type of illegal activities. If you are a victim of any type of ransomware, it would be wise to contact your local FBI field office, or file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (https://www.fbi.gov/ic3). This may feel like a scary step to take. Your story and the way ransomware happened to you or your company can be shared to help others and prevent them from becoming a victim.

How to Protect Against Malware vs Ransomware

The best practices to protect from malware, ransomware, and other cyber attacks or cybersecurity threats start with the acceptance that there are external factors and conditions in the cyber world that can be influenced by your level of awareness. 

A technical awareness and training providing the steps to prevent and protect yourself and your organization such as keeping updated systems, protecting your passwords, recognizing phishing emails and many more can make a difference for you and your company to prevent or recover faster from a cyber attack. 

There is also a different type of awareness that allows you and your workforce to focus, and perceive cyber safety in a different way. I suggest you start incorporating simple practices of mindfulness, gratitude, breathing and creating a culture where you and your employees strive to enjoy your interactions with technology.    . 

Following the five basic recommendations below can help you and your organization to reduce the chances of becoming the next victim of ransomware:

  • Practice being Intentional, Aware and Mindful and continuously reinforce this message in your organization. The more you and your workforce incorporate cyber safety practices, the less likely you will become a victim.
  • Ensure your email program includes a spam filter, blocks executables files (for example programs with .exe ), and that anti-malware software to scan emails.
  • Maintain multiple backups online and offline
  • Promptly update your software when new versions are available so you can close open holes to minimize malware entrance.

How to Beat Ransomware

The first step to beating ransomware is to acknowledge that you are in charge! When you receive an email containing links or attachment files, you can decide whether to open it or not. You can decide to mark it as a spam email. 

If your organization has a phishing reporting process, you can decide to follow it.  So now you know the difference between malware vs ransomware!

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Live Happily Ever Cyber!

Sandra Estok, CEO and Founder of Way2Protect | Happily Ever Cyber!

Sandra Estok

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