Malware Protection: A Guide

With more than 1 billion known malware variants, and more than half a million new malware detections daily, malware poses a substantial threat to corporate networks and data. Ransomware, in particular, is rapidly accelerating in use, with a 62% increase in ransomware attacks in 2021. And the effects of malware attacks can be devastating, from system shutdowns to loss of sensitive data to financial and reputational losses.

Organizations must proactively defend themselves against malware attacks, building malware protection into their overall cybersecurity strategy.

What Is Malware?

Malware, short for malicious software, describes computer programs or code designed to gain unauthorized access to devices, networks, and data to cause damage, disrupt services, exfiltrate data, extort money, or damage institutional reputations.

Organizations must proactively defend themselves against malware attacks, building malware protection into their overall cybersecurity strategy.

Types of Malware

Malware comes in various forms, and most users have experienced at least one. 

Common types of malware include:

  • Viruses: malware that infects a device or program and, once activated (for example, by opening a file), alters the device’s or program’s operation and then replicates and spreads to other connected devices. 
  • Worms: viruses that self-replicate and spread without activation, depleting system resources
  • Trojans: software that appears legitimate but hides malicious code that can access sensitive data (e.g., credentials) or systems
  • Rootkits: software that allows privileged access to a user’s system and actively avoids detection
  • Spyware: software such as a keylogger that monitors user activity, gathers sensitive data, and provides information about that activity to external parties.
  • Adware: software that displays unauthorized advertisements
  • Ransomware: malware that typically prevents a user from accessing their device or accounts until they meet a ransom demand. Ransomware can also exfiltrate data; attackers threaten to release the data or wipe a device. WannaCry, one of the most infamous ransomware attacks, affected more than 300 organizations globally and caused more than $4 billion in damages.
  • Cryptojacking malware: malware that performs cryptocurrency mining operations in the background of an infected system, consuming large amounts of resources.
  • Fileless: malware that relies on native system tools to launch an attack instead of a separate file.

Malware frequently gains access to corporate networks through phishing emails, which remain among the most successful means of breaches.

What Is Malware Protection?

Effective malware protection requires a comprehensive, integrated approach, including advanced malware protection tools, well-defined and enforced security policies and employee training. Malware protection efforts should include advanced detection and remediation tools that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to identify currently unknown or zero-day threats and advanced malware such as fileless malware. 

How Malware Protection Software Works

Malware protection software typically includes three primary features:

  1. Detection
  2. Isolation
  3. Removal

Malware protection tools can detect malware by their signatures or behaviors. Signature-based detection identifies known threats using digital signatures for software components. Behavior-based detection goes a step further, analyzing activity to detect anomalous behavior that may indicate a threat. Behavior-based detection is more effective for identifying unknown threats, especially when augmented by AI.

Malware protection tools may also provide a layer of protection via sandboxing. When the tools detect a suspicious item (for example, a suspicious file in an email), they can isolate the cyber threat using a sandbox. Sandboxing allows the system to open the suspicious file in a separate virtual environment. In this environment, the file’s contents cannot access corporate systems or services.

An essential step in malware protection is malware removal. While this can be simple for widely known malware threats, removing ransomware can be more complicated.

How to Prevent Malware (Malware Protection Best Practices)

When putting a malware protection plan in place, you should apply the following best practices:

1. Take a Comprehensive, Holistic Approach

To best protect your organization against malware, your plan should adopt a broad-based strategy that includes: 

  • Company policies, such as email, internet, and company device usage policies
  • Employee training to help them identify common threat indicators 
  • Tools that cover your systems end-to-end

2. Build a Cybersecurity Culture

Malware protection is much simpler when everyone understands the potential impacts of a malware attack—and the simple steps they can take part of their routine to minimize the organization’s attack surface.

3. Update Regularly and Promptly

Out-of-date software is a common access point for threat actors. Ensure that your software and systems are constantly updated and that your IT staff apply patches as quickly as feasible.

4. Create Protection Layers

Layering protection end-to-end gives you the best shot at blocking attempted malware attacks. For the best protection, supplement endpoint protection tools such as antivirus programs with next-generation firewalls (NGFW), Zero Trust Security tools, strong Identity and Access Management (IAM), and advanced detection analytics. You can also reduce your attack surface by segmenting your network and using role-based access controls.

5. Enforce Strong Password Policies and Multi-Factor Authentication

Weak credentials are another common way for threat actors to access your systems. Strengthen your systems and culture by requiring non-duplicate passwords, frequent password resets, and multi-factor authentication (MFA). 
Continuous authentication can limit how far an attacker can move laterally in your network. And limiting access to critical systems and data on a need-to-know basis further prevents threat actors from spreading through your network in the event of a successful attack.

7. Take Advantage of AI and Automation

Anti-malware tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, applying advanced AI algorithms to identify potential threats and minimize false readings. They also allow you to automate your protection plan, reducing your overall personnel and financial commitments.  


What is malware?

Malware is software intended to infiltrate a device or network to cause damage or exfiltrate data. Malware can take many forms, such as viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, or cryptojacking attacks.

Are malware and ransomware the same thing?

Ransomware is a specific type of malware that blocks a user from accessing a device or account until the user pays a ransom. Potential effects of ransomware attacks include a user being locked out of data and services, data theft and disclosure, or even the destruction of data or devices.

What is malware protection?

Malware protection is a comprehensive approach to preventing malware attacks and minimizing the damage of such attacks. Effective protection requires a multi-layered approach, including corporate cybersecurity policies, employee training, and the application of advanced malware protection tools.

What is advanced malware protection?

Advanced malware protection applies high-end tools such as artificial intelligence and automation to strengthen cybersecurity. These tools allow for better visibility into your network and endpoints, enable you to identify potential threats accurately and prioritize your security and remediation efforts. Advanced protection also allows your security to evolve in time with threats, helping you identify and block new, as yet unknown malware.

Does antivirus prevent malware?

Antivirus programs are one step in malware protection, as they address a single threat. Most antivirus programs focus on known threats and are ineffective at identifying zero-day threats. 

As a human-centric subscription-based 24x7x365 Managed XDR service, CylanceGUARD® provides the expertise and support businesses need to prevent and protect against malware. CylanceGUARD combines the comprehensive expertise embodied by BlackBerry Cybersecurity Services with AI-based Endpoint Protection (EPP) through CylancePROTECT®, continuous authentication and analytics through CylancePERSONA, and on-device threat detection and remediation through CylanceOPTICS®. In short, CylanceGUARD provides business with the people and technology needed to protect the enterprise from the modern threat landscape.