Malware is malicious software. A malware attack can infiltrate the network and allow unauthorized access to critical information.
We categorize malware in one of five different classes.
- Spyware records keystrokes and other activity and sends it to a collection site.
- Trojans appear as useful programs, such as games or utilities, but contain malware that allows hackers to take control of the victim’s computer remotely.
- Rootkits provide a backdoor for illegal access to a host.
- Viruses can self-replicate yet need a way to propagate to other hosts.
- And worms are a self-propagating virus that can spread on their own. Viruses and worms are two common malicious programs.
A virus is like a human virus, in that it can self-replicate and spread to other programs within the system. The results can be as simple as a new icon on the desktop, or more serious results, such as disabling antivirus or destroying files.
A virus must have a way to travel to another host. A classic way to propagate a virus is via an email attachment. Today it’s common to find malware on USB flash drives which are inexpensive and convenient.
But a worm is a virus subclass that has the ability to spread without any help from a transport agent such as an email attachment. This ability makes a worm more dangerous, as it can have devastating effects on all hosts on the network.
Phases by a Virus or Worm
The basic phases of an attack by a virus or a worm, are as follows.
- Probe, the malware identifies weak targets.
- Penetrate, the malware transfers malicious code to the target.
- Persist, the malware attempts to remain on the target system.
- Propagate, the malware attempts to extend the attack to other targets.
- And paralyze, the malware is able to cause damage to the system.
Many are unaware
Many users are unaware of a virus or worm’s frenzied replication until the virus or worm consumes system resources such as memory, processing, bandwidth. All of which can slow or even halt tasks.
Shift in Malware
We see a great shift in malware. These went from the early days of script kiddies to cybercriminals, whose main focus is profit. Businesses have lost billions to viruses, worms, spyware, and phishing attacks.
Yet at the same time, a global cybercriminal business has grown exponentially. Because of the evolution of malware, current malware has the properties of a virus, worm, Trojan, and rootkit all bundled up in a single package to enable survival and dissemination.
How Do Get Malware?
Getting malware is fairly easy, as most of the time we carelessly visit a webpage or click on a link from a friend, and expose the system to malicious activity.
Many people feel that malware protection is sufficient, when in fact, it’s hard to keep ahead of the latest threats. Some malware, such as worms and botnets, propagate independently. Others, such as a Trojan, use a wrapper that wraps the malware in some enticing message, utility, or game.
Ransomware is a form of malware. Over the years, different types of ransomware have evolved. However, all of them have the same outcome.
They hold your computer hostage until you offer some form of payment or ransom. Ransomware spreads like many other types of malware, via phishing or spear-phishing attacks, or other methods to get the victim to click on a link that might be on a webpage or social media that takes you to the attacker’s website to download a file. Ransomware is dangerous.
Protect against malware. Use strong spam filters, use anti-malware protection, and back-up and store sensitive files in a remote storage facility. And most importantly, think before you click.