The number of cyber attacks is rising fast. How can you keep your computer and your personal data safe? 


A new report from Kaspersky Labs makes sobering reading for all computer users. According to its data 2017 may have been the biggest year yet for antiviruses as it registered a massive jump in the number of attacks it registered. 


According to the study Kaspersky identified and prevented more than a billion attacks from computer viruses over the course of 2017. This exceeds their figures from last year by a staggering 30% and leaves us with an uncomfortable conclusion. The number of cyber-attacks is growing, and growing fast.


The rise of ransomware


However, it’s not just a case of numbers. The main problem, says the report, is the global epidemic of cryptoware, with programs like the Wannacry and Bad Rabbit viruses wreaking havoc on computers. These are denial of service attacks which lock users out of their computers and force them to pay a ransom. 


Wannacry made headlines earlier in the year with the global attack which impacted the NHS and other organisations. Bad Rabbit, meanwhile, has infected Russian media outlets and computers all over the world. It demands a ransom of 0.05bitcoin or $280 to unlock data. 


This is more than just an issue for big organisations such as the NHS. Developers of ransomware realise that we have huge amounts of previous information on our computers and may be willing to pay to get it back. They have commercialised their entire operations and have a vested interest in making ransoms affordable and easy to pay.


Cat and mouse 


The world of cyber crime is a constant game of cat and mouse between the cyber criminals and the makers of cyber defences. As a new threat develops, so companies develop a new line of defence. Cyber criminals then develop a new attacks vector to get around the defences. 


It’s a technological arms race with each side deploying the latest developments to aid their cause. So how do you stop it?


An evolving market 


Kaspersky’s study registered 96,000 new computer viruses in 2017, which is double 2016’s figure. The number of viruses out there are multiplying, which means antivirus software must be agile in order to keep up. When choosing an option, look for one which regularly updates its database of attacks. 


Cleaneres work by updating a data base of known attacks and comparing them against incoming files. Those which have extensive and regularly updated databases, therefore, will be in a better position to defend against the latest attacks. 


A software can also use heuristics to identify a suspicious file by its actions. For example, if a file appears benign, but then starts trying to access all the other files on the computer, your antivirus software will consider it suspicious and quarantine it until it knows whether to trust it or not.


You should also make sure your antivirus software can withstand the latest attacks such as cryptoware. Many people assume an antivirus software provides defence against the entire spectrum, but that is not always the case with some of the cheaper and more basic options. 


You should also build your own knowledge. Many infections rely on people visiting the wrong web page or clicking on a malicious link in an email. Of course, it’s impossible to be 100% safe – which is why antivirus software exists – but by understanding the nature of the threat it is possible to reduce the risks you face online. 


Get the right protection


Ultimately, it’s all about knowing the right level of protection for you. The more advanced and sophisticated an antivirus software is, the better the protection it offers. However, for lighter users who only store a limited amount of information on their computer it may be a case of overkill. The secret is to know your needs, assess the risks and access the best solution for you. 


This is why we offer an extensive resource of reviews. We’ve compiled a list of widely available antiviruses and provided independent and comprehensive reviews. If you know how an antivirus works, and what features you can expect, you’re in a much better position to make a decision.