Do you have ever imagined how the internet is being vulnerable day by day? We all are seeing that the viruses and malware are constantly evolving, becoming more tricky, advanced, very dangerous, and almost costlier than before by every new day, making it extremely difficult to keep your privacy and data protected. Unless you’re an IT professional with enough awareness about the potential threat of different types of malware and properly protected (which most people aren’t).
Cybercriminals are relentless and will stop at nothing to hack your computer or phone to steal your most valuable data — including bank details, personal photos, and sensitive ID card information. You, me and we all are at risk of becoming a victim of the latest computer virus threats and malware attacks. This is why you must have a working antivirus installed on your PC, Mac, Android, or iPhone.
What Is Malware Or Malicious Software?
Malware is normally delivered in the form of a link or file over email and requires the recipient to click on the link or open the file to execute the malware. In the technical sense, malware is the collective name for a number of malicious software variants, including viruses, worms, ransomware, and spyware. Shorthand for malicious software, malware typically consists of code developed by cyberattackers, designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to gain unauthorized access to a network.
Actually, Malware has been a threat to individuals and organizations since the early 1970s when the Creeper virus first appeared. Since then, the world has been under attack from millions of different types of malware, all with the intent of causing the most disruption and damage as possible.
How Malware Works?
There are many different types of malware that can enter your computer via malicious file downloads, visiting infected websites, or through an email containing seemingly benign link or attachment. A network or device can be attacked and infected by the malware spreaders use a bunch of physical and virtual means to spread malware. For example, A USB drive can spread malicious programs to a system and can be distributed over the internet through drive-by downloads, which automatically download malicious programs to systems without the user’s approval or knowledge.
Phishing attacks are another common type of malware delivery where emails impersonate as legitimate messages include malicious links or contain attachments that can deliver the malware executable to unsuspecting users. Sophisticated malware attacks often feature the use of a command-and-control server that allows threat actors to communicate with the infected systems, exfiltrate sensitive data, and even remotely control the compromised device or server.
How Do You Know That You Are Infected With Malware?
While these types of malware differ greatly in how they spread and infect computers, they all can produce similar symptoms. Computers that are infected with malware can exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- Increased CPU usage
- Slow computer or web browser speeds
- Problems connecting to networks
- Freezing or crashing
- Modified or deleted files
- The appearance of strange files, programs, or desktop icons
- Programs running, turning off, or reconfiguring themselves (malware will often reconfigure or turn off antivirus and firewall programs)
- Strange computer behavior
- Emails/messages being sent automatically and without the user’s knowledge (a friend receives a strange email from you that you did not send)
What Can Malware Do?
Malware is often created and spread by a group of hackers: usually, they’re just looking to make money, either by spreading the malware themselves or selling it to the highest bidder on the Dark Web. However, there can be other reasons for creating malware too — it can be used as a tool for protest, a way to test security, or even as weapons of war between governments.
Well, different types of malware deliver their payload in a number of different ways. From demanding a ransom to stealing sensitive personal data, cybercriminals are becoming more and more sophisticated in their methods. The following is a list of some of the more common malware types and definitions.
Different Types of Malware List
A virus is the most common type of malware that is capable of copying itself and spreading to other computers. Viruses often spread to other computers by attaching themselves to various programs and executing code when a user launches one of those infected programs.
They are usually contained within an executable file and can also spread through script files, documents, and cross-site scripting vulnerabilities in web apps. Viruses can be used to steal information, harm host computers and networks, create botnets, steal money, render advertisements, and more.
Worms have been around even longer than computer viruses, all the way back to mainframe days. The email brought them into fashion in the late 1990s, and for nearly a decade, computer security pros were besieged by malicious worms that arrived as message attachments. One person would open a wormed email and the entire company would be infected in short order.
Worms get their name from the way they infect systems. It can replicate themselves and infect multiple computers on a network causing major damage. Network worms often use computer networks to spread thereby slowing down network traffic. Starting from one infected machine, they weave their way through the network, connecting to consecutive machines in order to continue the spread of infection. This type of malware can infect entire networks of devices very quickly.
Spyware is most often used by people who want to check on the computer activities of loved ones. Of course, in targeted attacks, criminals can use spyware to log the keystrokes of victims and gain access to passwords or intellectual property. Spyware, as its name suggests, is designed to spy on what a user is doing. Hiding in the background on a computer, this type of malware will collect information without the user knowing, such as credit card details, passwords, and other sensitive information.
A Trojan horse, commonly known as a “Trojan,” is a type of malware that disguises itself as a normal file or program to trick users into downloading and installing malware. A Trojan can give a malicious party remote access to an infected computer. Once an attacker has access to an infected computer, it is possible for the attacker to steal data (logins, financial data, even electronic money), install more malware, modify files, monitor user activity (screen watching, keylogging, etc), use the computer in botnets, and anonymize internet activity by the attacker.
Also known as scareware, ransomware comes with a heavy price. Able to lock down networks and lockout users until a ransom is paid, ransomware has targeted some of the biggest organizations in the world today — with expensive results.
Adware, or advertising-supported software, is software that displays unwanted advertisements on your computer. Adware programs will tend to serve you pop-up ads, can change your browser’s homepage, add spyware, and just bombard your device with advertisements. Though not always malicious in nature, aggressive advertising software can undermine your security just to serve you ads — which can give other types of malware an easy way in. Plus, let’s face it: pop-ups are really annoying.
Not to be confused with adware, malvertising is the use of legitimate ads or ad networks to covertly deliver malware to unsuspecting users’ computers. For example, a cybercriminal might pay to place an ad on a legitimate website. When a user clicks on the ad, code in the ad either redirect them to a malicious website or installs malware on their computer. In some cases, the malware embedded in an ad might execute automatically without any action from the user, a technique referred to as a “drive-by download.”
Bots are networks of infected computers that are made to work together under the control of an attacker. They are software programs created to automatically perform specific operations. While some bots are created for relatively harmless purposes (video gaming, internet auctions, online contests, etc), it is becoming increasingly common to see bots being used maliciously. Bots can be used in botnets (collections of computers to be controlled by third parties) for DDoS attacks, as spambots that render advertisements on websites, as web spiders that scrape server data, and for distributing malware disguised as popular search items on download sites. Websites can guard against bots with CAPTCHA tests that verify users as human.
How Does Malware Spread?
Each type of malware has its own unique way of causing havoc, and most rely on user action of some kind. Some strains are delivered over email via a link or executable file. Others are delivered via instant messaging or social media. Even mobile phones are vulnerable to attack. It is essential that organizations are aware of all vulnerabilities so they can lay down an effective line of defense.
Malware can get onto your computer in a number of different ways. Here are some common examples:
- Downloading free software from the Internet that secretly contains malware
- Accessing Remote desktop protocol
- Downloading legitimate software that’s secretly bundled with malware
- Visiting a website that’s infected with malware
- USB and removable media
- Clicking a fake error message or pop-up window that starts a malware download
- Opening an email attachment that contains malware
Example Of Different Types Of Malware Attacks
1. CovidLock, (Ransomware-2019): Fear in relation to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been widely exploited by cybercriminals. This type of ransomware infects victims via malicious files promising to offer more information about the disease.
2. LockerGoga, (Ransomware-2019): It is ransomware infections involve malicious emails, phishing scams, and also credentials theft that hit the news in 2019 for infecting large corporations in the world, such as Altran Technologies and Hydro. It’s estimated that it caused millions of dollars in damage in advanced and targeted attacks.
3. Emotet, (Trojan-2018): The main vectors for Emotet’s spread are malicious emails in the form of trojan spam that became famous in 2018 after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defined it as one of the most dangerous and destructive malware.
4. WannaCry, (Ransomware-2017): One of the worst ransomware attacks in history goes by the name of WannaCry, introduced via phishing emails in 2017. The threat exploits a vulnerability in Windows, estimated that more than 200,000 people have been reached worldwide by WannaCry.
5. Petya, (Ransomware-2016): Unlike most ransomware, Petya acts by blocking the machine’s entire operating system. I mean, Windows system. To release it, the victim has to pay a ransom. Among the victims are banks, airports, and oil and shipping companies from different parts of the world, losing an estimated $US 10 billion to date.
6. CryptoLocker, (Ransomware-2013): Released in 2013, CryptoLocker is one of the most famous ransomware used a very large encryption key, which made the experts’ work difficult. It’s believed that it has caused more than USD 3 million in damage, infecting more than 200,000 Windows systems.
7. Stuxnet, (Worm-2010: The Stuxnet deserves special mention on this list for being used in a political attack, in 2010, on Iran’s nuclear program and for exploiting numerous Windows zero-day vulnerabilities. This super-sophisticated worm has the ability to infect devices via USB drives, so there is no need for an internet connection.
8. Zeus, (Trojan-2007): The Zeus trojan attacks hit major companies such as Amazon, Bank of America, and Cisco, distributed through malicious files hidden in emails and fake websites, in cases involving phishing. The damage caused by Zeus and its variations is estimated at more than USD 100 million since it was created in 2007.
9. MyDoom, (worm-2004): In 2004, the MyDoom worm became known and famous for trying to hit major technology companies, such as Google and Microsoft. Used for DDoS attacks and as a backdoor to allow remote control to be spread by email using attention-grabbing subjects, such as “Error”, “Test” and “Mail Delivery System”.
10. ILOVEYOU, (Worm-2000): The ILOVEYOU worm was used to disguise itself as a love letter and the first cases of social engineering used in malware attacks, received via email. Reports say that it infected more than 45 million people in the 2000s, causing more than USD 15 billion in damages.
11. Melissa, (Virus-1999): The Melissa virus infected thousands of computers worldwide by the end of 1999. The threat was spread by email, using a malicious Word attachment and a catchy subject: “Important Message from (someone’s name)”. It infected many companies and people, causing losses estimated at USD 80 million.
How to Protect Against Malware
Now that you understand a little more about different types of malware and the ways flavors it comes in, let’s talk about protection. When it comes to malware, prevention is better than a cure. Fortunately, there are some common sense, easy behaviors that minimize your chances of running into any nasty software.
- Don’t trust strangers online! “Social engineering”, which can include strange emails, abrupt alerts, fake profiles, and curiosity-tickling offers, is the #1 method of delivering malware. If you don’t know exactly what it is, don’t click on it.
- Double-check your downloads! From pirating sites to official storefronts, malware is often lurking just around the corner. So before downloading, always double-check that the provider is trustworthy by carefully reading reviews and comments.
- Get an ad-blocker! Malvertising – where hackers use infected banners or pop-up ads to infect your device – is on the rise. You can’t know which ads are bad: so it’s safer to just block them all with a reliable ad-blocker.
- Do not call fake tech support numbers. Tech support scams, often involve pop-ups from fake companies offering to help you with a malware infection. How do you know if they’re fake? A real security company would never market to you via pop-up saying they believe your computer is infected. They would especially not serve up a (bogus) 1-800 number and charge money to fix it. If you have security software that detects a malware, it will show such detection in your scan, and it will not encourage you to call and shell out money to remove the infection. That’s a scam trying to infect you. Don’t take the bait.
- Careful where you browse! There are many types of Malware can be found anywhere, but it’s most common in websites with poor backend security, like small, local websites. If you stick to large, reputable sites, you severely reduce your risk of encountering malware. Did you log into your healthcare provider’s site using your super-strong password? You could still be leaving yourself vulnerable if you don’t log out, especially if you’re using a public computer. It’s not enough to just close the browser tab or window. A person with enough technical prowess could access login information from session cookies and sign in to a site as you
- Make sure you’re on a secure connection. Look for the proper padlock icon to the left of the URL. If it’s there, then that means the information passed between a website’s server and your browser remains private. In addition, the URL should read “https” and not just “HTTP.”
- Use strong passwords and/or password managers. A strong password is unique, is not written down anywhere, is changed often, and isn’t tied to easily found personal information, like a birthday. It’s also not repeated for different logins. Admittedly, that’s a tough cookie to chew on. If you don’t want to worry about remembering 5,462 different rotating passwords, you may want to look into a password manager, which collects, remembers, and encrypts passwords for your computer.
- Keeping easily recoverable backups—Since there is often no way to decrypt files compromised by ransomware, your only course of action is continuing business from a backup. If you have a comprehensive, highly organized data recovery strategy, this can take as little as ten minutes’ time and cost nothing. If your backup strategy is inefficient, irregular or unorganized, however, migrating all your data can take days or even weeks.
- Protecting mobile data—Every employee and business partner or collaborator has a mobile device and chances are that mobile device has some of your corporate data on it. This can be through a linked email account or through a cloud application like DropBox. Address these applications with a corporate policy that includes erasing data after unsuccessful password attempts and protecting sensitive data when mobile devices get into the wrong hands.
- Remove software you don’t use (especially legacy programs). So, you’re still running Windows XP or Windows 7/8.1? Microsoft discontinued releasing software patches for Windows XP in 2015, and Windows 7 and 8 are only under extended support. Using them without support or the ability to patch will leave you wide open to exploit attacks. Take a look at other legacy apps on your computer, such as Adobe Reader or older versions of media players. If you’re not using them, best to remove that unwanted software soon before any disaster.
- Use firewalls, anti-malware, anti-ransomware, and anti-exploit technology. Your firewall can detect and block some of the known bad guys. Antivirus software can be effective at combating basic, “nontargeted” types of malware that might be used by criminals against hundreds, or even thousands, of targets. However antivirus software is usually ineffective against targeted attacks, Meanwhile, Malwarebytes use multiple layers of tech to fend off sophisticated attacks from unknown agents, stopping malware, and ransomware infection in real-time and shielding vulnerable programs from exploiting attack.
Conclusion: Malware is an inevitable threat and always hanging on the head. With good user policies in place and the right anti-malware solutions constantly monitoring the network, email, web requests, and other activities that could put your organization at risk. Security professionals agree with a multi-layer approach—using not only multiple layers of security technology but also user awareness—helps keep you protected from the bad guys and your own mistakes. Now go forth and fight whatever different types of malware it is!