- Malware is malicious software (such as viruses and trojans) that can be unknowingly downloaded by visiting fake websites or installing fake apps from an app store (malware disguised as a popular game or app).
- Downloading and installing software from unofficial sources (such as third party app stores) can increase the risk of malware as can using peer to peer networks involved in illegal downloading.
- Once malware is present on a device, it can monitor any inputting of personal data (such as when someone types in a username and password into a site/app) or scan files on the device for personal data. It then sends this data to a criminal who can use it to commit online fraud. Some malware may allow a criminal to take control of the device remotely to search it for personal data.
- Malware can also slow a device down, corrupt data files, prevent it from functioning properly or even cripple it completely.
- Ransomware is a form of malware designed to lock down the personal files on a device and encrypt them so they can no longer be accessed by a user. It may also lock down the device from being used. To unlock the device and decrypt the files, a user must pay a ransom to the criminal to receive a special ‘key’. Ransoms are typically requested in the form of a cryptocurrency (digital currency) such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. If someone chooses not to pay the ransom, the only way to restore control of the device is to perform a factory reset, which will also delete all their personal files.
- Take steps to ensure that all family devices have up to date antivirus software installed. There are a range of products available, including free options. You can use anti-malware software to regularly scan for threats on family devices, and this software may be able to remove any malware found.
- Although ransomware can be distressing, you should never agree to pay the ransom. There is no guarantee that a criminal will provide a decryption key after receiving payment. Paying a ransom may also show a criminal you are willing to pay and have the money to do so, so they could attempt to lock down your device and files again in the future to extort more money.
- Encourage your child to always use official app stores and marketplaces for downloading any apps, games and software. This will minimise the risk of downloading malicious software.