Malware is a malicious software designed to damage or harm programmable services, devices, or networks. They are intrusive software prepared by cybercriminals to steal data, destroy, or damage computers and computer systems. Common forms of malware include worms, viruses, spyware, Trojan viruses, ransomware, and adware.
Reasons Why Criminals Use Malware
Malware consists of all types of malicious software, such as viruses, which the cybercriminals use for various reasons, including:
- Tricking the victim into providing personal data for identity theft
- Stealing customer financial data, such as credit card data
- Launching a denial-of-service attack against other networks through control of multiple computers
- Mining bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies by infecting computers
How Does Malware Work?
The software can be used to infect devices, users, and networks in various ways. Malware can present its harm to the user or endpoint, depending on the type of software. The effect can be mild, benign, and also disastrous. A hacker can design or develop malicious software that benefits at the user's expense. For example, it can send email spam to the host through contraband data, such as engaging in a denial-of-service attack in extortion or child pornography. All types of malware affect the devices despite the method.
Government and corporate websites can sometimes use malware to find guarded information and disrupt operation. Spyware can be used to monitor the user's web browsing, redirect the affiliate marketing revenues, and display unsolicited advertisements. Spyware programs are installed to exploit security holes by hiding and packaging unrelated user-installed software.
Ransomware can prevent the user from accessing files until paid. For example, Locker ransomware without encrypting the computer system, lock it down. Crypto ransomware encrypts the contents of the computer, and lockdowns are a system.
Some malware makes money through click fraud by making the computer user appear as if clicking the advertising link on the site, generating payment to the advertiser. There is also criminal money-making where malware uses sabotage to make political motives.
How Do Malware Infections Develop?
Malware authors use virtual and physical means to spread malware infections that affect the devices, users, and networks. For example, a USB drive can deliver malicious programs to the systems. This is done via drive-by downloads and popular collaboration tools that automatically download malicious programs to devices or systems without the user's knowledge or approval.
Malware can deliver through phishing attacks where the emails are disguised as legit messages that contain malicious attachments or links that give executable files to unsuspected users. The malware attacks that are supplicated often target the use of the command-and-control server. The server is the threat actor used to exfiltrate sensitive data, infect systems, and obtain remote control of a compromised server or device.
Malware continues to advance as seen in new aversion and obfuscation techniques used to fool users, anti-malware products, and security administrators. These evasion techniques use simple tactics such as web proxies to hide the source of IP addresses or malicious traffic.
Also, sophisticated threats can include polymorphic malware that repeatedly target the underlying code to avoid being detected by any signature-based tools for detection. Anti-sandbox techniques can enable malware to know when there is analysis and execution delay so that it can leave the sandbox.
Types of Malware
There are various forms of malware which include the following:
Backdoor refers to bypassing the standard authentication procedures over networks, to include the internet. To allow access in the future and invisibility to the user, one or more backdoors are installed once the system is compromised. People have been suggesting that computer manufacturers preinstall backdoors in the system that provides technical support for customers, which is not yet verified.
These are well-known types of malware which include worms and viruses. They are known because of their signature spreading manner. They are linked to biological viruses. The following is an explanation of worms and viruses.
A worm is a stand-alone malware that cannot infect files after copying itself. It is software that actively transmits itself to a network then infects other computers. In order for a worm to spread, it does not need a user to operate the system because it spreads itself.
Viruses are a malware software hidden in another innocuous program that produces copies of itself and sends them to other files or programs. It can perform harmful damage like destroying data. For example, portable execution infections can spread malware by inserting extra data or executable codes into files. Computer viruses can embed themselves into other executable software, mainly operating systems. It applies itself to the target system without the user's knowledge and consent.
Trojan horses are harmful software that can misrepresent itself as a benign program, either regular or utility, to convince the victim to install it. When starting the application, the hidden destructive function is activated from inside the Trojan horse and spread in the form of social engineering. For example, an email sent to the user may include harmful files that the user will be tricked into downloading..
Most of this software contacts the controller through unauthorized access with the affected computer. It potentially installs additional software, such as a keylogger, that steals confidential information and crypto mines software to generate revenue to the Trojan's operator. It is not easily detected but may cause computers to run slower, emit more heat, and create more fan noise due to network usage or a heavy processor.
To avoid detection, malicious software is canceled once it is installed. Rootkits are software packages that allow cancellation by modifying the host's operating system to hide malware from the user. It makes the harmful process invisible in the list of system functions and keeps files from being discovered. Some harmful software try to evade identification and removal attempts.
Grayware applies to unwanted applications or files that worsen the performance of computers and can cause a security risk. Grayware applications behave in an undesirable or annoying manner and have less troublesome or severe effects. Applications of grayware include joke programs, adware, spyware, fraudulent dialers, unwanted programs, and remote access tools that cause inconveniences and harm the performance of computers.
Potentially Unwanted Programs
These are applications that are considered unwanted despite the user downloading them after failing to study the download agreement.
This is where legitimate ads and networks are used to deliver malware to unsuspecting users' computers. The cybercriminal can make the user click the ad redirecting them to the malicious websites or installing malware on the computer. The technique includes downloading the malware embedded in the ad and can execute itself without taking action.
This is malicious software that uses fear and uncertainties to induce the user to install it. It can seem to be beneficial to the user, but in reality, it has no value to the user, yet it can cost a lot. It is mainly in questionable online platforms and primarily aimed at inexperienced users.
Spyware is used to spy on affected software. It is used to capture valuable user information, such as passwords, and send it over the internet to the responsible cybercriminals. The hackers can use the software of questionable download portals or email spam to spread the spyware.
How to Tell if Your Device Has Malware Infections
There are various signs that you can see when your computer is affected by malware, which includes the following:
- Slowed computer performance
- Web browser taking you to sites you did not want or redirecting you
- Noticing infection warnings is frequently accompanied by solicitations of something to buy it
- Computer having problems shutting down or starting
- Displaying frequent pop-up ads
How Computer Users Can Protect Themselves From Malware
Companies or individual computer users can protect against malware by strictly observing tested and tried security measures. This is possible through practicing the following measures:
Individual or company computer users should protect critical records from malware attacks and possible data breaches. You should update backups regularly and ensure that important updates and files are stored multiple times. Keeping backups in different locations helps to achieve geo-redundancy. This also helps to protect backups from water damage, fire, natural disasters, and other outside influencers.
Checking Email Attachments
Using secure email helps protect computers against malware that can primarily spread through spam email. For example, it is vital to scrutinize file attachments, even if they are from you. To ensure that the extension is correct, it is advisable to call the sender when you receive unexpected file attachments, like executable office documents. This helps to stop the continued spread of malware. The user can forward the suspicious emails or files to the responsible IT unit and IT security officer.
Establishing a scanning software that can detect malware early and protect the system is essential. These security tools are used to identify malicious programs with hash values compared to known malware.