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How you can avoid downloading malicious code

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As companies become more reliant on digital tools, they are inherently increasing their exposure to potential malware attacks. Because malicious code and other viruses can wreak havoc and impact a system’s security, it’s important to go the extra mile to keep sensitive business, client, and bank information safe with protective technology and best practices.

What is malicious code?

Malicious code is a harmful computer programming script that creates and/or exploits system vulnerabilities. It usually camouflages itself as a harmless software component in the form of a link or a software download. Once malicious code enters your computer system, it can unleash viruses, worms, spyware, system slowdowns, and more. Because malicious code makes computer systems weaker and unprotected, it can also lead to back-door security breaches, as well as information and data theft.

Unfortunately, malicious code is a sophisticated security threat that can’t always be easily detected by conventional antivirus software. Because some forms of malicious code threats can hide, lay dormant, and even disguise their presence, you may not be able to detect them until it’s too late. 

There are many different types of malicious code attacks, but here are some of the most common:

  • Phishing attacks are a practice of sending fraudulent emails or text message communications to get you to log in to your account, allowing cybercriminals to steal money, gain access to sensitive data, or install malware. 
  • Ransomware attacks are malware attacks that encrypt files or “lock” computers, preventing users from accessing data and files. Cybercriminals then demand a ransom to reinstate access.
  • Bot attacks use automated scripts or software to perform malicious tasks controlled remotely by the hacker. These attacks can steal sensitive data, make fraudulent purchases, and disrupt websites, applications, APIs, and end users. 

How do you identify malicious code?

Although malicious code attacks are becoming more sophisticated, there are effective techniques you can use to spot them.

  • Check if a URL actually leads to the website it’s supposed to. Pay close attention to the URL and make sure it takes you to the website it claims to represent. Many phishing scams use fake and deceptive URLs that mimic the appearance of trusted sites.  
  • Look for spelling errors or other inconsistencies in a website’s domain name. Make sure the website URL is spelled correctly and doesn’t have additional characters, strange domain variations, and other irregularities. 
  • Do not click on links whose URL ends in “.exe” because that indicates malware. Hackers tend to use this extension to camouflage malicious code to get users to download harmful software. Also, websites don’t usually use “.exe” in their URLs, so seeing one is a red flag. 

Because employees are the first line of defense against cyber attacks, it’s important to provide your team with guidelines and education to empower them to recognize the latest cybersecurity threats, tricks, and trends. Doing this helps ensure everybody is doing their part to protect your organization’s sensitive data. 

How to avoid downloading malicious code

The following tips can help your company take preventative steps to avoid malicious code and keep malware out of your business’ network. 

1. Use antivirus software and firewalls

Antivirus software helps protect devices by scanning files for malicious code. It also monitors networks to assist with fast incident response and incident resolution. Although it doesn’t prevent every attack, antivirus software helps flag malicious code so you can react quickly to a threat. Pairing it with a firewall creates a strong cybersecurity solution that monitors and prevents a malware infection by intercepting it early. 

2. Deploy advanced email security

Even with training and security awareness, human error and unintentional clicks on malicious links still happen. To avoid potential damage, it’s recommended that all employees install an email security solution with advanced spam filters and detection tools. These security programs protect users and files in any cloud environment and with any email service (Gmail, Outlook/Office365, Azure, etc.).

3. Only browse secure websites

Unsecured websites can contain viruses, worms, or other malware. Look for the lock icon to the left of the URL and ensure that the URL begins with “https” instead of “http.” This demonstrates the website has an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate that guarantees site safety. Because http sites do not guarantee online user safety, you should avoid downloading files, clicking links, or entering confidential information while on those sites. 

4. Block pop-ups

Although pop-up ads are a common form of digital advertising and not all of them contain malware, it’s best to block them. Not only are these ads an annoying distraction—some of them can contain malicious code.  

5. Only download from trusted sources

Employees might download additional software and programs to help with their day-to-day work, so it’s best to implement company-wide policies and guidelines for software downloads to avoid falling victim to malware. 

6. Block unsecured sites at a DNS level

As malware is becoming more advanced and evading traditional security solutions, not all secured https websites are safe. To ensure “safe” domains are not malicious, use advanced filtering and blocking tools at a DNS level to prevent suspicious domains from loading in the first place. 

7. Educate your team on phishing scams

Even with detection and preventative technology, malicious code and cyber attacks can still happen. Providing your employees with ongoing cyber threat education makes them better equipped to identify malware and not engage with suspicious emails or URLs.

How to tell if your system is infected with malicious code

If you notice any of the following symptoms and signs, it’s likely your computer has been infected with malicious code: 

  • Big increase in internet data usage. Because some malicious programs “communicate” with their control servers, they can cause a big data usage increase.  
  • Sudden decrease in performance/frequent crashes. If your computer becomes slower or starts crashing/freezing, it could be a sign that malicious code is interfering with your operations.
  • Redirection to unfamiliar websites. Malware can change your browser settings, which may redirect you to unfamiliar (or malicious) sites. This is a common sign that your computer has been infected. 
  • Files become inaccessible. Some malware encrypts or corrupts files, making them display errors or become inaccessible to you and your team.
  • New icons randomly appear on desktop. If your computer has been infected, the malware can install unfamiliar icons and suspicious shortcuts on your desktop or in your files. 
  • Unusual errors and warning messages. Malicious code can cause frequent and unusual errors, warning messages, and an overwhelming amount of pop-ups. 
  • Inability to access or edit. Some malware can disable security features, preventing users from accessing system settings or making changes in the control panel. 

Unfortunately, malware and malicious code are everywhere. However, with the right combination of cybersecurity knowledge, best practices, and protective digital tools, your company can create a more secure online experience for employees and safeguard your most sensitive digital assets.

Secure online business checking with high-yield interest.


This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice of any type, such as financial, legal, tax, or accounting advice. This content does not necessarily state or reflect the views of Bluevine or its partners. Please consult with an expert if you need specific advice for your business. For information about Bluevine products and services, please visit the Bluevine FAQ page.

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This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice of any type, such as financial, legal, tax, or accounting advice. This content does not necessarily state or reflect the views of Bluevine or its partners. Please consult with an expert if you need specific advice for your business. For information about Bluevine products and services, please visit the Bluevine FAQ page.

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