Type of Resource


Publication Date

September 21, 2023


Harmful or inappropriate content  

What is Malware?

Malware (Malicious Software) is a programme or file that can infiltrate and harm a computer or a network. Some examples include:

How it works

Malware can infect a computer from USBs, automatic downloads via email or websites and third-party apps requiring access to social media. The software can remain undetected for some time and cause problems with your computer or files.

Common signs that malware has infected your system can be a slow computer, seeing lots of pop ups and ads, programs behaving strangely and friends reporting receiving spam from you.

For example, when you open up your web browser you might see lots of advertisements asking you to click on them, some of which may even move or flash. If you see this, it’s best to run an anti-virus scan. This could be a sign that you need to remove some malware from your computer.

How to protect yourself from Malware

There are some quick and easy steps you can take to prevent complications from malicious software on your computer:

Thinking Ahead

Direct physical harm from malware remains unlikely. Yet considering how reliant we are on our devices, the potential threat of disclosure or corruption of sensitive, personal data remains real. Thinking ahead and backing up your data regularly (say once a month) and actioning the latest security and anti-virus updates (sometimes called patches) will make sure you are prepared for any possible security breaches on your system.


Ransomware is a form of malware that can screen lock a computer or encrypt its files, threatening to publish these files unless a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks have increased 350% around the world since 2017. Furthermore, the number of global ransomware attacks in the first half of 2022 was reported as an estimated 236.1 million.

Ransomware in the news

You might remember the widespread disruption caused by the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware in 2017 that saw the NHS, o2 and other businesses around the world ‘locked’ out of their systems. The most worrying realisation was that 75% of the businesses affected were running up-to-date security software. Very quickly after this disruption, internet security firms were able to remedy the problem. Since then more attention has been paid to the potential threat of ransomware.

Top Tips for talking to Children and Young People about Malware:

Ransomware Statistics

For more information about cyber security, check out our online safety article:

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