Malware attacks are any type of malicious software designed to cause harm or damage to a computer, server, client or computer network and/or infrastructure without end-user knowledge. Cyber attackers create, use and sell malware for many different reasons, but it is most frequently used to steal personal, financial or business information. While their motivations vary, cyber attackers nearly always focus their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) on gaining access to privileged credentials and accounts to carry out their mission.
Stealing data, credentials, payment information, etc. is a recurring theme in the realm of cybercrime. Malware focused on this type of theft can be extremely costly to a person, company, or government target that falls victim.
Actively working to “cause problems” for a target’s operation is another objective seen in malware. From a virus on a single computer corrupting critical OS files (making that one system unusable) to an orchestrated, physical self-destruction of many systems in an installation, the level of “disruption” can vary. And there’s also the scenario where infected systems are directed to carry out large-scale distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks.
Some malware is focused on directly extorting money from the target. Malware attempts to prevent a target from accessing their data (usually by encrypting files on the target) until the target “pays up.”
You may be tricked into clicking on a link or attachment or installing a program. When this happens, usually a virus installs itself on your computer and uses malicious code to do things like scan for personal information or capture keystrokes without you knowing
Most malware types can be classified into one of the following categories:
When a computer virus is executed, it can replicate itself by modifying other programs and inserting its malicious code. It is the only type of malware that can “infect” other files and is one of the most difficult types of malware to remove.
A worm has the power to self-replicate without end-user involvement and can infect entire networks quickly by moving from one machine to another.
Trojan malware disguises itself as a legitimate program, making it one of the most difficult types of malware to detect. This type of malware contains malicious code and instructions that, once executed by the victim, can operate under the radar. It is often used to let other types of malware into the system.
Modern malware is often a “hybrid” or combination of malicious software types. For example, “bots” first appear as Trojans then, once executed, act as worms. They are frequently used to target individual users as part of a larger network-wide cyber-attack.
Adware serves unwanted and aggressive advertising (e.g., pop-up ads) to the end-user.
Malvertising uses unprotected online advertising to spread malware and involves injecting malicious or malware laden code into advertisements on legitimate online internet site advertising networks and web pages.
Spyware spies on the unsuspecting end-user, collecting credentials and passwords, browsing history and more.
Ransomware is a type of malware that severely restricts access to a computer, device or file until a ransom is paid by the user. It has the ability to lock a computer screen or encrypt files with a password, often using strong encryption.
Malware code is often hidden in attachments, links and free downloads. Here are some tips on recognising a malware attack.
While not as common as they used to be, adware programs bombard their victims with advertisements. Sometimes there are ads for legitimate products, netting an affiliate fee for the adware perpetrator any time someone clicks on the ad. Other times they contain links to malicious websites that will attempt to drop more malware on your PC.
Not every site redirect is malicious, but if you find that trying to reach a website or Google takes you to an unfamiliar search site, you’ve got a problem.
Creating and distributing fake antivirus programs (also called scareware) is a lucrative business. The perpetrators use drive-by downloads or other sneaky techniques to get the fake antivirus onto your system, then display alarming warnings about made-up security threats.
Malware focused on Facebook and other social media sites propagates by generating fake posts or direct messages. Typically, these posts include an inflammatory statement of some kind, like “OMG were you really that drunk? Look at this picture!”
Some malware programs literally hold your PC or data for ransom. Overt ransomware threats encrypt all your pictures and documents and demand that you pay to get them back. Even worse are the ones that encrypt your entire computer, rendering it useless unless you pay to have it unlocked. Others are all bluff and bluster.
A smart user, suspecting the presence of malware, might launch ‘Task Manager’ to investigate, or check settings using ‘Registry Editor’. If you suddenly find that trying to use these or other system tools triggers a message saying your Administrator has disabled them, it may well be an attempt at self-defence by malware on your system.
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