What is Malware? Types, Risks & Prevention

 

Creeper Virus was the first malware that was created in 1971 by a person named Bob Thomas. It was actually designed for security testing purposes. However, hackers and other malicious actors came up with their own variants of viruses and malware that became more dangerous over time.

There are now hundreds or thousands of malware variants, but they generally fall into these categories or types such as Virus, Worm, Trojan Horse, Adware, Spyware, Ransomware. Each of these types serve a specific purpose. Some of them are used to take control over the system, while others can completely disrupt your system’s functioning.

Malware — An Overview

Malware is a malicious program that is written or compiled by a hacker or some other person with malicious intent. Malware is injected to the victim’s computer by using a range of techniques, but social engineering is the most common gateway for attackers.

Hackers often use various spyware or RAT tools to create such malware without the need of any programming. These pre-built software allow hackers to generate a malicious file and then encrypt it to stay undetectable from antivirus programs.

Types of Malware

Malware can serve a single unique or various different purposes. Some malware programs are used to spy on their victim’s device. However, others may steal or encrypt your sensitive files to demand for money. Overall, here are eight major and common types:

Ransomware

Hackers use ransomware to demand money from users. Hackers encrypt data and files, and the user can’t access them until he pays a ransom. Despite paying the hacker, your access to the files is never guaranteed.

Computer Worms

The most common type of malware is a computer worm. Infected devices spread the virus to other devices, forming a chain of infected computers. As opposed to viruses, worms do not need the help of other programs to infect your computer.

By executing certain payloads, these worms can damage your devices. Also, they can consume the bandwidth on your network and even cause your web server to overload.

Adware

Adware is the most annoying type of malicious software. Your device is bombarded with unwanted ads. In many cases, this type of malware is injected by our web browsers, which allow websites to show advertisements on our devices, but then they spam our devices with malicious and unexpected advertisements.

Although this type of malware is not dangerous, the ads shown on your device could contain malicious scripts of another type that could be harmful.

Spyware

A spyware program collects all the information about the activities you perform online in secret. Your browser data, your browsing history, and your usernames and passwords for different platforms are collected by Spyware programs.

Spyware is usually installed through freeware and cracked versions of different software which contains spyware scripts. A malicious code is executed along with the desired software once you open it.

Trojan Horse

Trojan horses disguise themselves as legitimate programs on a victim’s computer. Your machine can be accessed by a hacker, and he can make all administrative level changes. A Trojan can encrypt, delete, modify, copy or block personal data on your device.

Backdoor trojans are subtypes of trojans that hackers use to compromise the devices of hundreds of thousands of people to form zombie networks or botnets for illicit purposes.

Keyloggers

Keyloggers track the keys you type on your keyboard. It can monitor every keystroke you make while typing. Your account details as well as messages can be stolen with these keyloggers. Some keyloggers also store your typing even when you are offline. Hence, they are also very dangerous because they can easily compromise

RATs

By executing a malicious program on the targeted device, remote administration tools (RATs) allow hackers to compromise and access different devices. It is nearly impossible to trace these RATs, as they are utterly stealthy.

The hacker can now access all your data, your webcams and even your screens once he executes that malicious file. Although such programs are hard to find, if your device starts acting erratically or your CPU usage increases significantly, that’s a big red flag.

WebShells

The security of our web servers can also be compromised if we do not take the necessary precautions. Attackers normally use administration panels on websites to upload scripts that enable remote control of devices. Scripts like these are usually WebShells.

Using WebShell, a user can steal or manipulate any data present on the server using the command line interface. There are numerous advanced web shells available with comprehensive graphical user interfaces that can modify or extract desired data. Additionally, they can steal the credentials of the users of that particular website.

The purpose of these shells is usually to deface websites or gain access to confidential data, thereby damaging organizations or governments’ reputation.

Malware Prevention Tips

Most malware attacks are successful due to human error or zero safety precautions. Here are a few useful prevention steps to keep malware away from your device.

Use Antivirus Software

Malware attacks can be prevented by having antivirus software installed on your computer. For better security, consider purchasing a premium antivirus software. Also, antivirus software is sometimes useless because attackers can easily bypass their security by encrypting their virus.

Limit Administrative Privilege

Some programs get access to certain parts of your device when you open them as Administrator. Because you have administrative privileges, your device would be compromised if it was a malicious program. Thus, using non-administrative accounts while browsing the Internet or using applications is always a safe option.

Check Email Attachments

Any attachment containing an unusual extension (usually .dll or .exe files) must be blocked. You should also prevent those files (.zip files), which you cannot be scanned immediately.

Monitor Activity

Monitoring your device’s traffic is highly recommended. Track all traffic coming in and going out of your internet to see if anything seems strange.

Additionally, look at the applications your device runs in the background. Analyze the amount of CPU, memory, and GPU resources they are consuming. Over a certain threshold, it is possible that you are dealing with a malicious program since it is consuming excessive resources without any upfront usage.

Conclusion

Malware is a huge threat to individuals as well as organizations. However, most malware attacks can be prevented if we educate ourselves about such malicious programs and associated risks. Hence, company employees should be trained about such attacks where hackers demand their involvement. Also, everyone should take precautionary measures to prevent malware attacks.