Despite years of security advancements, attacks over the Internet are still very common. In fact, recent reports show a sharp increase in viruses and other cyber attacks over the past few years. Close to 100 million strands of malware are ready to pounce on unprotected and unsuspecting users.

Not only are the incidents increasing; their purpose has become more demonic. During the first wave of the world wide web, "trojans" and "worms" were mainly the work of high school kids or graduate students who were just looking for fun and fascinated by the ability to infiltrate another person's system. Since then, keeping the malware genre alive, hackers and high-profile criminals have learned the cash value of cyber attacks.

"This is big business now," said David Loudon, Science and Technology Adviser for Townsquare Media.

In the most serious cases, hackers are after information from users that they would want to keep a secret - social security number, account usernames and passwords, and more.

"Their objective is to be able to get into people's bank accounts," Loudon said of the most malicious attackers.

Malware growth has also spiked because of the increased opportunities for attack. With the proliferation of mobile computing, many people now depend on transacting important business via smart phones, tablets and lap tops. If hackers can get into those devices, just like computers, they can siphon information to use to their own advantage.

Mobile devices are more difficult to access because of the uniqueness of each model, but malware is still a real threat, according to Loudon.

Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of infections were discovered on Apple computers, products known for their immunity to such attacks.

A "malware of choice" recently has been drive-by attacks, in which hackers can taint specific web sites and infect any users that visit those sites. They have even been reported on major, legitimate sites, and on mobile devices.

Ransomware has also become a pressing threat. Attackers can take over a device remotely, and then demand payment from the victim.

  • FILE a web attack complaint

Loudon said it's better to have your device protected beforehand, rather than look for a solution after your information or machine has been hijacked.

"You should have a good anti-malware program on your computer," Loudon advised. There are several programs that work great at no cost, as well as low-cost programs that provide excellent protection.

He strongly suggests a hardware firewall as well, typically found in broadband routers.

Loudon added, "Don't open e-mails from people you don't know. Make sure you've got your e-mail client set up so it doesn't automatically download content until you've had a chance to open the message and see what it's about."

When responding to web attacks, mobile devices have a slight edge. In most cases, a phone can be swiped clean of its data and booted to its original condition. For computers, unless done professionally and for a hefty price, removing some strands of malware can be near impossible.