Cybersecurity for SMEs: A Guide to Malware and Phishing

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Cyber attacks hit thousands of businesses every year, but they can be particularlydamaging to startups and SMEs who lack the resources to pay ransoms or recover data immediately.

Malware and phishing are two of the most common cyber threats that can put small businesses and their customers at risk. They can reduce productivity and even tarnish the company’s reputation. Below, we list down everything you need to know about these online dangers as well as preventive measures you can take against them.


Malware, short for malicious software, is an umbrella term for files and programs designed to damage a device or gain access to personal data.  It comes in a variety of forms including worms, trojans, viruses, and spyware.

Malware usually finds its way into your network through malicious spam emails, website downloads, or connections with infected devices. Its main goal is to take control of the computer without user consent in order to steal personal data. Hackers would often promise to return stolen information in exchange for a significant amount of money. In reality, the files have already been deleted or damaged irreversibly with zero chances of retrieval.

The following are common types of malware:


Worms make their way into computers through phishing attacks and software vulnerabilities. Once a worm has installed itself into your computer’s memory, it can infect not just your device, but connected networks, too.

Worms can infect large numbers of computers in one go. They’re programmed to alter and delete files, plant a convenient backdoor for hackers, and replicate themselves continuously until system resources are depleted.


Viruses are usually attached to .exe file extensions from untrusted sources. Unlike worms, they can only harm active systems or programs that have already been infected.

Viruses are often spread via infected websites, file sharing, or email attachment downloads. A virus can replicate itself and spread through systems. In this scenario, it can easily hijack your apps and use them to send infected files to your contact list.

Trojan Horses

A Trojan Horse is a hostile program disguised as a trustworthy, legitimate file. It enables hackers to access your network, modify and capture data, and spy on your online activity.

Bots & Botnets

A bot is a device that’s been infected with malware so it can be controlled remotely by cybercriminals. Bots are then used to fire more attacks or harvested as part of a botnet.

Botnets can include millions of infected devices from all over the world. They help with all sorts of malicious activities such as webcam access, keylogging, and sending spam and phishing attacks.

Businesses can avoid malware attacks by implementing strong technological defenses. Web security must be in place, preventing users from visiting malicious sites or downloading harmful software. Since malware often spreads undetected, the company must have a central control panel to secure all devices and monitor web activity at all times.



Phishing is one of the easiest ways to breach a company’s security. It makes use of deceptive websites, e-mails, and text messages to collect personal data or spread malware. The goal is to trick the recipient into believing that the message came from trusted entities such as banks or companies the victims might do business with.

In a typical phishing attempt, the victim is tricked into handing over sensitive data such as passwords and credit card details. Victims may be asked to click a link directing them to a website that looks legitimate but exists solely to steal login data from phishing victims. These fraudulent websites may also contain malicious code, infecting the victim’s device and networks.

With the rise of ready-made phishing kits, even cybercriminals with minimal technical skills can easily send out messages to potential victims. A phishing kit contains tools such as cloned websites and mailing lists to be installed on a server. Some phishing kits allow attackers to disguise themselves as trusted brands. The more popular the brand, the higher the chances of victims clicking through fraudulent links.

Some attackers use another method called spear-phishing where they send messages tailored to a specific individual. With a bit of research, spear phishers can make it look as if the message was sent from trusted sources such as a victim’s colleagues. They use spoofed email addresses to make messages look more credible and increase click-throughs.

To protect your business from phishing attacks, ensure all employees are trained on the correct protocols for password security. Always double-check the spelling of the URLs in email links, and watch out for subtle differences in URL redirects that could suggest a fraudulent website.

If you receive an email from a suspicious source, contact that source through phone or in person instead of just hitting reply.

Cyber attacks can happen at any moment. By backing up your files and archiving websites, you can guarantee quick data recovery without paying ransoms or losing productivity. Regardless of the industry you’re in, cyber-resilience is an important step in the success of any business.

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