Malware and best security practices

  • Published
  • By Airman Edward Medina, 436th Communications Squadron cybersecurity technician

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- With technology being so widely accessible, everyone should be familiar with basic cybersecurity principles and best practices. Every day, millions of people click links and download apps with little understanding of the wide variety of threats that might be lurking in the code. According to, malware presents one of the biggest threats to your computer and related devices today. Luckily, there are many steps and precautions you can take to keep your devices safe.

In 1949, computer scientist John von Neumann theorized the possibility of making computer code that could self-replicate. This new code would pass information from one system onto other systems secretly while still executing normal functions. In 1971, Robert H. Thomas performed the first version of this new type of code dubbed "The Creeper Worm," which would display, "I'm the Creeper: Catch me if you can," onto the victim's screen. This simple code started the programming evolution of the biggest threat facing devices today: malware.

Today, malware can take the shape of many threats, ranging from the most straightforward algorithm, designed to slow down your computer, to code designed to steal your personal information and even your identity. But how do you recognize that malicious code may have made its way into your information system? You might notice performance problems with your laptop or random ads popping up on your monitor for starters. Another, more surefire way to detect malware is to scan your computer using antivirus software regularly. These programs find known malicious code or detect anomalies in your devices. Once you’ve identified that your system is virus-free, you will want to secure it and keep it that way.

The steps for securing your system against malware include:

  • ensuring your system is up to date
  • being aware of what you're clicking on!
  • using strong passwords made up of 16 or more characters, including numbers, letters and symbols
  • minimizing downloads
  • keeping your pop-up blocker turned on

These steps are small, easy to implement and have significant impacts on keeping your devices safe. Tiny things like these are key to protecting your devices, and following these best practices are vital to keeping your computer and phones clean.

With endless possibilities of malware threats, you'll never be able to protect yourself fully; however, by following these suggestions, you will gain a great starting point in the war for your privacy and data.