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What is a cyber-attack and how can you prevent one?

What is a cyber-attack and how can you prevent one?

You probably know that the more time you spend working, shopping and communicating online, the more likely you are to be at risk of a cyber-attack. The consequences of a cyber-attack include identity theft, having money stolen from bank accounts and credit or store cards being opened in your name.

Most people fear their computer being infected with ‘viruses’, but a virus is just one of several different types of infection which can plague our devices and put our security and wellbeing at risk. Let’s take a closer look at what the different types of infections are and how they work:


A virus is in fact, a piece of software that can “infect” a computer. It installs itself. Commonly, it attaches itself to other computer programs, files, or the boot sector of a hard drive. This means that when a user executes a file, the virus is also executed, usually harming the computer. Viruses are actually uncommon today, with attackers preferring to target and collect user data and files rather than cripple computing devices.


Unlike viruses, a worm is an individual piece of software that replicates and spreads itself to other computers. It often takes advantage of a computer network to do so, relying on security flaws on the target system to gain access. Worms were commonly circulated as email attachments which are the perfect medium for spreading a self-replicating infection. What makes them so malicious is that they do not require user interaction (unlike viruses) to start infecting systems.


Malware = Malicious Software. This name is given to any type of software that harms or has the potential to harm a computer, interfere with it, gather data from it or make it perform actions without the owner’s knowledge or permission.

Trojan horse

A type of malware. Unlike malware, Trojan horses masquerade as legitimate programs, but contain malicious code. This typically causes loss or theft of data. Trojan horses are among the most popular types of infection today and have largely replaced worms. Like a virus, a Trojan horse relies on user execution to begin infecting the system. Circulation is usually in the form of email attachments and via infected websites. A common example is a website pop-up, informing a user they have an infected system. If clicked the user is then instructed to download a program to clean the infection which is a Trojan horse masquerading as a legitimate program.


Spyware is software that gathers information about a person, group or company without their knowledge. This software can monitor and log the activity that is performed on a system including keystrokes which can be used to gain passwords, credit card/bank details and other personal data. Spyware infections are reasonably straightforward to remove compared to their counterparts.


Adware is software which causes unwanted and sometimes malicious advertising. This typically manifests as website and system pop-ups and banner adverts. A common example is a program that redirects a user’s browser searches to lookalike web pages containing other product promotions. A lot of freeware uses adware but not always maliciously. If there is malintent, then the infection is re-classed as spyware or malware. On the long list of infections, adware is the least concerning and dangerous.


Malware programs that infect your computer, encrypt your files, and then hold them hostage awaiting a financial payoff are known as ransomware infections. There has been a marked increase in ransomware attacks in recent years and there is no sign of this trend easing. Ransomware has been known to cripple companies and public services. Most ransomware programs are Trojans, which once executed, look for and encrypt users’ files within a few minutes. Prevention is the best solution for ransomware; however, it is essential to make sure a regular backup is taken of important and personal files.

Prevention & Protection from Cyber Attacks

Finding and removing infections varies hugely in terms of the difficulty and time taken to repair the file system. On occasion, if an infection is malicious enough there is no alternative but to reformat the hard drive and rebuild the operating system from scratch.

The advice from the team here at Black Nova Designs is always: “prevention is better than cure.” A robust and reliable antivirus solution is essential to protecting your computer, your data and your applications from malicious attacks. Despite the “antivirus” moniker, these applications guard against all the attacks listed above and are updated daily to ensure accurate and thorough protection against the newest infections.

Not all antivirus solutions are created equal. Free offerings are useful to a point, but do not usually include protection against every type of infection or a firewall service without paying for the full software package. Some providers are slower than others with “definitions updates” and some applications are bundled with resource-intensive control panels and “bolt-on” software that often ends up being more of a hindrance than a help!

At Black Nova Designs we are an ESET Authorised Partner, specialising in the installation and configuration of antivirus solutions which work to protect our client’s computers and data.

ESET Advanced Endpoint Protections performs very well in independent antivirus tests and the software does not hog computer resources. ESET provides a complete package without any “upgrade” incentives or costly “top-ups”. The user receives the entire product with one annual payment.

Included in the cost is comprehensive infection prevention and protection, a smart scan feature which carries out its checks and routines when the computer isn’t being used; freeing up vital resources, a robust firewall, daily definition updates and a lightweight easy-to-use control panel which only bother’s the user with need-to-know information.

Interested? Give us a call today and we can help you protect your computer. Call us on 01793 210045 or email us: .

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