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Do You Have What It Takes to Fight Malware? #CyberAware

By Mary Beth Hamilton | Thursday, October 6th, 2016

In honor of October being National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’ll be bringing helpful articles on a range of topics starting with this one on understanding malware.

We’re also debuting our first interactive game, FreEze!, where your challenge is to hit malware before it hits you (à la Space Invaders). Play the game below or keep reading for more on malware -- or do both!

Play FreEze and be a Malware Fighter

 Play FreEze Malware Game

Understand Malware Definitions & Security Tips

Understanding the tools hackers use is key to protecting your hedge fund from the dangers of internal and external security breaches. The following malware definitions provide some insight into the most common types of threats of which you should be wary.

  • Viruses: A virus is a program that can infect a computer system and replicate itself, allowing it to spread from one PC to another over a network. Typically, a virus will replicate itself by attaching to an executable file that is part of a legitimate application. When the user attempts to launch that program, this activates the virus, which enables it to corrupt or alter files on that computer and spread to other applications on the network. Viruses can also be spread via removable media, including USB drives, DVDs, and CDs.

  • Worms: A worm is another type of self-replicating malware. It differs from a virus in that it does not require any action on the part of the user to copy itself and spread to other computers. Worms are typically harmful to the network and can consume a great deal of its bandwidth. This can cause a delay in communications both within the network and with external counterparties such as investors or broker-dealers. 

  • Trojan Horses: A Trojan horse is a malicious program that disguises itself as a legitimate application. The user initiates the program, believing it to be performing a desirable function, but it instead allows the invader to gain unauthorized access to the user’s PC and the information that is stored there.

  • Spyware: Spyware is a program that is installed on a computer which can collect bits of information about a user over a period of time without the user’s knowledge. Spyware is typically installed discreetly and is hidden on the computer, so it can be very difficult to detect. It allows the invader to gain unauthorized access to the user’s data.

Here are a few basic security tips to keep your environment safe.

  • Ensure that all anti-virus programs are up to date. Malware creators are regularly working to find ways to penetrate a firm’s environment. At the same time, anti-virus companies have their teams working to identify the next malware code and update their software to protect against it. Keeping your anti-virus software updated may seem simple, but here is one example of when it can prove challenging.

  • Ensure that all patches are deployed in a timely manner. Malware creators are becoming more sophisticated, so it is important to have the most up-to-date versions of all security programs. Software providers, such as Microsoft, release new patches on a regular basis so make sure your systems stay up to date.

  • Deploy a program that constantly scans the network for malware and removes threats. Again, a number of vendors exist, so be sure to check with your IT resources to choose one that fits your firm’s specific needs.

These are just a few types of malware to be conscious of when looking at the levels of security surrounding your firm’s data and some helpful security tips for preventing them from intruding on your systems.

More on security best practices: 

Security Dos and Don'ts for Investment Firms

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