Mother sits with her daughter on the sofa and looks at a smartphone.


The term malware is short for malicious software. There are different types of malware, but they all have one thing in common: They are secretly installed on computers or other devices and can deliver personal data to strangers. In this way, the data can easily be used for criminal purposes. That is why the protection of this data is so important. Here you can find out how to recognize malware and how to protect yourself against it.

Types of malware

The most well-known types of malware include:

  • Viruses and worms: Viruses can copy themselves and attach themselves to files in order to spread in this way. For example, if someone opens a file, downloads an email attachment or uses a USB stick, the virus can implant itself and spread further. Worms, on the other hand, do not need a file or anything similar, but use networks and security gaps to spread. Both viruses and worms can delete, save or misuse data. 
  • Trojans: These are disguised as trustworthy software and are therefore unknowingly installed via email attachments, downloads or similar. This gives attackers access to computers and other devices and allows them to control them remotely.
  • Ransomware: This type of malware also usually reaches the devices of those affected via email attachments or downloads from infected websites. Once the ransomware is installed, it encrypts data and blocks access to the device in order to extort money from the affected person in return for reactivating it.
  • Spyware and adware: Spyware collects confidential user data such as passwords or surfing habits unnoticed. Adware ensures that unwanted advertising is displayed and can redirect users to dubious websites. 
  • Rootkits: These programs are embedded in the operating system and give attackers administrator rights for the affected device. Rootkits are often spread together with other types of malware, such as viruses and worms, and are particularly difficult to detect.

How does malware spread?

In most cases, malware gets onto other people's devices and systems in a simple way. Phishing emails are one of the most common distribution channels. These emails pretend to come from trustworthy senders and so persuade readers to open attachments or disclose confidential data, for example. A similar process takes place using fake social media profiles or via messenger services.

Visiting infected websites or using external media such as USB sticks also enables malware to install itself and spread. 

How do I protect myself against malware?

Install security software such as antivirus or anti-malware and use a firewall to protect yourself. Regular backups of your data (e.g. photos, documents) and software and operating system updates are essential to protect yourself against malware and other cyber attacks. 

When opening and downloading attachments from emails or websites, you should always be careful and not click on any unknown sources. 

With the Zurich Cyber Security app you get several protective functions in one. Prevention can be that simple.

Detect malware and react correctly

Typical signs of a malware infection include:

  • Pop-up messages pop up unexpectedly
  • Unusually slow computer
  • Frequent system crashes
  • Storage space decreases extremely quickly
  • Unusual network activities

If you suspect that your device is infected with malware, first switch off the Internet and do not open any other programs. This prevents data from being transferred and spread. 

Next, back up all your data with a backup and then run an antivirus scan and an anti-malware scan. This enables many types of damage to be detected and repaired. If the situation remains unchanged or becomes even more complex than before, please contact an IT specialist or a cyber security company. 

Good to know: If you use our "Cyber – Prevention" offer, IT assistance is included in addition to the Zurich Cyber Security app. This means that IT and cyber security experts are available to you by telephone.

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