Malware 101

As most businesses and data going digital, the internet has become easier and more convenient mode of communication. However, with the benefits the internet offers, it has its own set of problems. Because of the popularity of digital businesses and prominence of social sites, the security threats become more aggressive. Dangerous malware is one among them and they are being programmed not only to crash the system, but with the intent of capturing sensitive information. The best way to prevent this from turning up is being aware of the different types of malware.

What Is Malware?

Malware covers all software programs that aim to do harm by making digital data inaccessible, deleting it, changing it or establishing access to it for malicious users. It always includes a damaging function and possesses various effects. Some malware intends to announce its presence in an inoffensive way and others steal the sensitive data or even delete them from the hard drive.

What Are The Symptoms Of Malware?

Malware is differentiated based on how they spread and affect computers. However, almost all can produce common symptoms. The following is the symptoms that alert you to the presence of malware:

  • Slow web browser speeds
  • Crashing or freezing
  • Increased CPU usage
  • Deleted or modified files
  • Presence of strange desktop icons, files or programs
  • Programs turning off, reconfiguring themselves while running
  • Strange system behavior
  • Issues connecting to the internet
  • Emails being sent without user’s knowledge

Different Types Of Malware

If you experienced any of the above symptoms, then your computer is infected with any one of the following malware.

Virus

This form of malware can duplicate itself and distribute to other systems. It often infects another system by attaching themselves to programs and executing scripts when a user initiates one of those harmful programs. Viruses can also spread via documents, script files and XSS (Cross-site scripting) vulnerabilities in web applications. Generally, attackers employ virus to steal sensitive details, harm host networks, and computers, steal money, create botnets, render advertisements, and more.

Worm

The worm works like the virus which copies itself over a network. It often reaches via email, examines the user’s address book and then spread itself to other contacts by the way of tricking the message as it is from the user. Worms are generally used to deliver viruses or sometimes the worms themselves be a virus; hence, the terms can be interchangeable.

Ransomware

Ransomware is designed to block the access to the system. It will show a message until a demanded amount of money is paid. In the worst case, the ransomware might encrypt the files of the target to lock its access until the target provides the amount to decrypt them. This kind of malware generally infects the computer from the inside and making it inaccessible.

Keyloggers

Keyloggers are software that usually track the information which is typed over a keyboard. This software mainly targets the physical keyboards since it isn’t competent to record details which are entered via virtual keyboards. After gathering the information, keyloggers send it to the hackers who can then obtain sensitive details like username, password and credit card details.

Rootkit

This type of malware is considered as the most insidious kind since they permit hackers to attain administrator access to the computer without the target’s knowledge. Once a hacker achieves root access to a computer, then he can do anything he wants, including changing a system setting, recording activity, accessing data as well as spreading attacks on other computers. Flame and Stuxnet are the most popular examples of the rootkits.

Spyware

As its name implies, the spyware monitors the victim’s activities on the internet. Based on the gathered information, it reaches the victim with ads that includes the malicious program. Once if the program gets downloaded into the computer, it continuously monitors his activities to the point, which his computer slows up to a useless posture. By the time the spyware becomes nearly hardly possible to remove.

Adware

With other types of malware, adware is one of the least dangerous malware. It is also the most profitable threat in that it displays unwanted advertisement which redirects the victim to advertise page. While benign adware requests the users for permission to display ads, the malicious adware downloads and display ads without any prior notification to the user. Adware uses two ways to affect the system:

  1. By using shareware or freeware and can use a legitimate method of establishing advertising returns from the downloaded program.

  2. Using an infected website that involves unauthorized adware installation on the victim’s system whereby an attacker can exploit a browser vulnerability. This approach is commonly caused by browser hijackers.

Trojans

Trojans or Trojan horse refers any program, which invites the victims to execute it, hiding a malicious or harmful payload. The payload begins the harmful action immediately that leads to several undesirable effects, including deleting important files, installing malicious software and more. Trojan horse is one of the common ways that spyware using to distribute themselves - attached with a desirable software, which the victim downloads using the internet. Once get downloaded, the spyware is installed alongside with the software installation.

Spam

Spam is considered as the unwanted email in the Information Security. It includes unwelcome ads, but often includes attachments or links, which would install malware on the system.

RAM Scraper

RAM scraper is malware that produces data which is being momentarily stored in the memory of the system or RAM. The major target of this malware is POS (Point Of Sale) where the credit card details are stored in clear text temporarily while waiting for sending encrypted details to the back-end system.

Rogue Security Software

The rogue security software is malware that appears like legitimate security software but misleads victims into trusting their machine is infected with a harmful virus. With this software the attackers tricking the user into paying the amount for the false malware removal tool. In the worst case, the false tool can even install the real malware program into the system.

How To Defend From Malware?

Here are some helpful tips that can prevent the downloading of unwanted software:

  • Install the anti-virus and anti-spyware software and make sure they are up-to-date to prevent the attacks and infections against the systems.

  • Install firewalls to boost the effectiveness of the anti-virus programs.

  • Be wary of downloading an email attachment.

  • Avoid downloading anything from untrusted websites. If you are unsure about the trustworthiness of a program, then search for that program on the search engines to find whether anyone has reported it as spyware.

  • It is best practice to read entire license agreements, security warning and associated privacy statement with the software that you want to download.

  • Don’t click “OK” or “Agree” to close a window which you doubt might include spyware. Instead, click the close button or “X” to close that window.

  • Avoid leaving computer operating idle for a long time.

  • Harden the browser environment with new technologies.

Malware is an influential issue and you should employ possible best practices to defend your machine from its several types. In addition to installing anti-malware software, have an on-demand second estimation scanner to ensure you are safe.


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