Is there a malware crisis in America?

Forget, for a moment, all about COVID-19. Yeah, that’s some scary stuff out there. But this blog doesn’t deal with that sort of thing. This blog’s all about the technology in your life, and all about the ways it can be used.

Good or bad, happy or sad

It seems like lately there’s been a lot of talk about malware. We used to call it “computer viruses” but today’s malware is so much more than that. Today’s attacks are incredibly sophisticated. A long while ago, hackers learned that it’s not enough to just stop your computer from working. The most complex malware steals all your information and then uses it to contact other people to steal their information. With enough secretly infected computers, it’s possible to do just about anything.

Probably the worst is “ransomware” which takes control of your computer and demands money for you to unlock it. Luckily this is a fairly rare form of malware, and it’s easily dealt with if you have good backups of your data.

The focus on business

This recent report from software company Malwarebytes suggests that malware attacks on business users are up 13%. It makes sense that business users would be more targeted. After all, home users are increasingly turning to phones and tablets instead of traditional PCs. You may still have a regular PC, but you’re in the minority.

But this isn’t a PC thing

Mac computers were once though virtually immune to malware. It’s still rare to see large-scale malware attacks on Macs, but that same report says that attacks on Macs are growing twice as fast as attacks on PCs. Unfortunately many Mac users have no malware protection at all, thinking their devices are malwareproof.

Attacks on phones are growing at a similar rate. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store aggressively guard against malware being posted, but that isn’t the only way people get their apps. Over 80% of phones are Androids and it’s not only possible but easy to get Android apps from a lot of different sources.

What can you do?

Luckily dealing with malware is a lot easier than it used to be. PCs have built-in malware scanners that are actually pretty good. You can get an added level of protection from free software like Malwarebytes. Mac users should definitely look into an antimalware solution. If there is a solution available for you phone, you should definitely get it.

But really, your devices are doing all they can. Most malware today is invited in. It looks like an email you were expecting, a link at a site you’ve visited before, or a download you want to see. It’s more important than ever to hover over a link and make sure that it goes where you expect.

I’ve seen issues where people’s computers more or less disintegrate before their eyes, with important files disappearing by the minute. And I have one friend whose email account has been sending me suspicious links for YEARS. The problem isn’t getting better. We just have to get smarter.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.