In today's world, where we are increasingly dependent on technology, we must keep track of our online activity. With this increasing dependability, it is also essential that we ensure our data is safe at times since it is the biggest asset. Your data must not fall into the wrong hands.
Among the existent cyber threats , malware attack is the most dangerous way to lose data. It is the type of malicious virus that can lock you out of your system, sometimes even cause you to pay a ransom to reaccess your files and leak your private data.
In this article, we will introduce you to malware and its different types. Also, we shall discuss how we can identify this type of attack and how we can prevent it.
What is Malware?
Malware is the combination of the two terms, namely malicious and software. Cybercriminals, hacktivists, and nation-states use malicious software to interrupt computer operations, steal personal or business data, get around access controls, and damage the host system.
Threat imposters leverage this type of software for a variety of reasons. They use it to make money from you, hinder your ability to do tasks, make a political statement, or simply for bragging rights. It cannot physically harm systems or network equipment. Still, it can steal, encrypt, or delete your data, change or hijack essential computer operations, and spy on your online behavior without your knowledge or consent.
It is challenging to include the entire history of malware attacks in one place. But we will look at its advancements in recent years and how it has affected us.
The 1980s and After
In 1949, John von Neumann delivered a lecture describing the theory behind "self-reproducing automata" (viruses). However, the Elk Cloner program, which started infecting Apple II systems in 1982, was the beginning of the history of modern viruses.
There was no danger associated with the virus, which was spread through infected floppy discs. In spite of this, it is regarded as the first major computer virus outbreak due to how quickly it spread to every disc connected to a system. This was before the Windows PC virus existed. Since then, there has been a sudden increase in cases of worms and viruses.
This was the start of Microsoft Windows' long reign as the most popular OS on the planet. The number of viruses created for the Windows platform started to increase along with the popularity of the operating system and its integrated applications. In particular, malware writers developed contagious code in Microsoft Word's macro language. These macro viruses infect documents and templates as compared to executable programs.
From 2002 to 2007
There were IM worms on popular IM networks such as AOL AIM, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger. Most attacks started with a social engineering ruse. The attackers would send an email saying, "OMG, I thought you won the lottery!" message accompanied by a link to a malicious download or click-bait mail. Once you click on the malicious link, malware gets into your system. It compromises your PC, after which the IM worm would spread by sending malicious download links to everyone on your contact list.
Between 2005 and 2009
Numerous malware attacks frequently appeared as popup windows or other inconvenient popup ads on computer screens. In 2008, software developers started suing adware providers for deceptive business practices. Millions of dollars in fines were the outcome. This ultimately resulted in the closure of adware companies.
Modern tech support frauds employed many of the same tactics as earlier adware attacks, like full-screen advertising that were impossible to close. This adware was the easiest method to spread malware into computers.
From 2007 to 2009
Malware scammers have used social networks to distribute fake ads, connections to phishing websites, and harmful software. Facebook and Twitter were on their hit list. Many times the user would receive anonymous messages from fake accounts. These messages would contain malicious links.
From early September 2013 until late May 2014, a new type of malware known as ransomware called CryptoLocker was in attack. This ransomware was specifically designed to attack Windows users. According to reports, this ransomware's cumulative sum was around 3 million dollars. The massive success of this ransomware gave rise to many copycats and different versions of it.
From 2013 to 2017
In 2017, massive outbreaks of ransomware affected all types of enterprises, spreading through Trojans, vulnerabilities, and malvertising.
Cryptojacking in 2017
With increasing interest in cryptocurrency mining and its popularity, this was a perfect place that has given birth to a new malware known as Cryptojakcing . This means using someone else's system and resources without their permission to mine cryptocurrency.
2018 to 2019
These years saw a significant resurgence of ransomware. However, this time, cybercriminals had a new target, the corporate. Attacks on organizations increased by 365 percent between 2018 and 2019, riding a wave of GandCrab and Ryuk ransomware infestations. At the time of writing, there is no sign that the ransomware attacks will subside.
What Does Malware Do?
It can penetrate into systems, breach weak passwords, propagate through networks, and interfere with a company's normal business processes. It can even encrypt crucial documents, bombard you with advertising, bog down your computer, or reroute your browser to harmful sites.
Most cyberattacks, particularly massive data breaches, result in widespread identity theft and fraud resulting from malicious software. Malware also causes ransomware assaults that cause millions of dollars in damage. Hackers target governments, businesses, and even people with software attacks.
How Does Malware Infection Take Place?
There are numerous ways through which malware can affect your system. Let's take a look at seven ways through which this type of threat can infect your system.
The primary goal of phishing emails is to trick you into divulging sensitive information, such as your PIN, card verification code (the final three digits on the back of your credit card), or other Personally Identifying Information (PII). However, because they appear to be mail from a reliable source, they may include attachments or URLs that may contaminate your device with malicious software.
Cybercriminals enjoy using fake versions of well-known companies' or brands' websites to lure users into downloading dangerous software. The con artists develop phony websites that look exactly like the actual thing, with slight variations here and there, like adding a letter, symbol, or even an entire phrase. Also, the domain name closely resembles the organization as a whole's domain name. The websites will aim to trick the target into clicking on links that will download malicious software into their devices.
USB Flash Drives
Although they come with various risks, external storage devices are a common way to store and transmit files. For instance, threat actors frequently utilize the "lost" flash-drive social engineering technique to trick unsuspecting users into connecting an infected thumb drive to their computers. A malicious drive plugged into your computer and accessed can infect your computer with malicious or keylogging software.
P2P Sharing and Torrents
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) sharing and torrents have a history of illegally downloading software, games, and other media. Still, developers have also utilized them to efficiently distribute their open-source software or musicians to share their music. However, these platforms are also unsafe as hackers use them to deliver malware into your systems.
Many different ads on some websites appear whenever you click on any part of the page or may even appear right away as you reach certain websites. Although the main objective of these advertising is to generate revenue for the websites, there is a chance that they could include malware. If you click on them, you run the risk of unwittingly downloading malware onto your device.
Although it nearly never happens, some advertisements even employ fear tactics by informing customers that their devices have been compromised and that only the solution suggested in the ad can fix the problem.
This list's final item is about bogus mobile applications. These apps typically pose as legitimate ones to trick users into installing them on the victims' smartphones, which then compromises the devices. They can appear to be anything, including bitcoin apps, COVID-19 tracing tools, fitness tracking software, and more. However, the machines will become infected with different types of malware, such as ransomware, spyware, or keyloggers, instead of obtaining the claimed services.
How To Detect Malware Infection?
Although it might seem difficult to detect malicious software if it is present in the system. But, here are some apparent signs in case of malware infection.
The System Becomes Slow
If your system is infected with malicious software, it slows down your operating system. Whether using local programs or the internet, your system's resource utilization seems excessively high. Your computer's fan may even start to run at full speed, which is a sign that something is using system resources in the background. This frequently occurs when your computer is a part of a botnet, a collection of enslaved machines used to launch DDoS assaults.
The System Freezes
A freeze or the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), which shows on Windows computers after a fatal error, are two possible symptoms of the issue. You may also notice a mysterious loss of disc space. Bundleware or bloated malware squatter concealed on your hard drive may cause this.
Your Antivirus Application Stops Working
One of the most common indications of malware infection is the crashing of the antivirus. In these cases, the antivirus on your system fails to work correctly and starts affecting the system.
The Settings of the Browser are Changed
If you notice that your homepage has some new toolbars, extensions, or plugins, there may be malware in your system. This case is generally caused when we unknowingly install malicious software in the system.
Suspicious Popup Ads or Security Warnings
Ads that pop up are infamously annoying. Since they are so despised, popup blockers are now a common feature in many browsers, allowing you to avoid them. Therefore, there is a good chance that a malicious software has infected your system if you suddenly start seeing many popup advertisements.
A quick, frightful warning that says your computer has malware on it, offers you antivirus software, and encourages you to act right away may also appear. Ironically, warnings like this are a way for hackers to infect your computer with Malware or steal your data.
Types of Malware
The following are the different types of malware:
1. Fileless Malware
It doesn't directly affect files or the file system, unlike classical ones, which infect machines through executable files. Instead, it takes advantage of non-file objects like PowerShell, WMI, Microsoft Office macros, and other system features. Operation Cobalt Kitty, in which the OceanLotus Group infiltrated many organizations and carried out covert operations for nearly six months before being discovered, is a prominent instance of a fileless malware attack.
A worm can propagate to other devices or systems, like a virus. A worm, however, does not spread to other programs. It frequently targets well-known exploits. Therefore, you should ensure that every device has the most recent updates installed to defend yourself against worms. You can find suspicious files or links that might contain a worm using firewalls and email filters.
A virus can infect other programs and systems in addition to performing its violent acts. When you open a file, the virus associated with it gets triggered. The infection will then relocate, erase, corrupt, or encrypt your data and files.
It is a tool cybercriminals use to keep track of user activities. It can access user names, passwords, and personal information by recording the user's keystrokes throughout the day.
Antivirus software can assist you in finding and getting rid of spyware. Additionally, you can prevent spyware from tracking users between websites by using anti-tracking browser extensions.
A trojan application poses as a trustworthy one while being dangerous. Unlike a virus or worm, trojans require their victims to run them. Typically, a trojan enters your network via email or is distributed to users via a website link. It can be more challenging to eliminate trojans since they rely on social engineering to spread and download.
A bot is a software program that executes a task automatically and without user input. A computer that has a bot infestation can infect additional computers, forming a botnet. Hackers can then take control of this network of hacked PCs and use it to execute large-scale assaults, frequently without the device owner being aware of their involvement.
Bots can be used to launch large-scale attacks like the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that in 2018 rendered the internet unavailable for most of the Eastern United States.
Ransomware attacks encrypt data on a device and hold it hostage until the hacker is paid to unlock it. The hacker may threaten to delete or reveal the data if the ransom is not paid by the deadline. Paying up wouldn't help because victims frequently lose their data even after paying the fee.
This type of attack is among the most notable malware types because they harm hospitals, telecommunications firms, railroad networks, and governmental organizations. A good example is a WannaCry attack, which rendered hundreds of thousands of computers unusable in over 150 countries.
Adware displays harmful advertisements. While generally harmless, it can be annoying when "spammy" adverts keep popping up while you're working and seriously impair the functionality of your computer. Additionally, these advertisements might unintentionally encourage users to download more dangerous software.
How To Remove Malware?
Here are the three procedures:
1. Download a Good Cybersecurity Program
The first and foremost step in case malicious software infects your system is the download antivirus or cyber security programs. You need to ensure that you have an up-to-date version of it.
2. Run a Scan
After installing the antivirus program, you need to run a deep scan. This will help the virus go through your system file by file and identify the location of the malware. Also, this will help you to understand to what extent the malware is affecting the system and what the steps should be to counter it.
3. Change Every Password You Use
It is a good practice to change your passwords for your email, social media accounts, favorite shopping sites, online banking, and billing services. Even though it seems absurd, you can never be sure what information was obtained before the infection was stopped by spyware, banking Trojans, and other tools. Don't feel like you have to remember all of your passwords; instead, use multi-factor authentication whenever possible (at least two-factor). Use a password manager instead.
If your iPhone or iPad has been infected with malicious software, it is a little more complicated now. This is because they do not support system scans or other files on the device. Your only choice is to perform a factory reset on your phone and restore it from a backup in iCloud. If you didn't make a backup of your phone, you must start afresh.
How To Protect Against Malware?
Here are some essential steps you must follow to protect against malicious software:
1. Keep Your Computer Software Up to date.
You should install the updates for your Windows and Mac computers as soon as they are made available because Microsoft and Apple routinely upgrade their operating systems. Fixes from these upgrades frequently improve the security of your system. A few operating systems also offer automatic updates, allowing you to get the most recent versions as soon as they are released.
In addition to updating the operating system, you need also to update all of the software on your computer. Newer versions frequently receive more security patches to protect you against any kind of cyber threat.
2. Use Non-Administrator Account Whenever Possible
Most operating systems allow you to set up multiple user accounts on your computer so that different users can each have their settings. These user accounts can be customized with various security settings.
For instance, installing new software is often possible with an "admin" (or "administrator") account but not with "limited" or "ordinary" funds. You should always use a "restricted" or "standard" user account since you probably won't need to install any new software to perform normal web browsing. Doing this may reduce the possibility that Malware will affect your computer's operating system.
3. Think Before Downloading Anything
In the real world, most people would be hesitant to visit a suspicious-looking building with a sign that reads, "Free computers!" in flashing lights. It would help if you exercised the same caution while accessing unknown websites on the internet that offer freebies.
Do you trust the website selling free role-playing games or video editing programs? We comprehend that downloading it can be tempting. It may frequently be beneficial to leave that website and read evaluations of the website or program in issue before downloading or installing anything. Downloads are one of the main ways people obtain malicious software. So, be cautious about what you download and where you get it.
4. Be Careful About Opening Unknown Emails
Would you immediately open and devour a box of chocolates that a stranger sent you in the mail? Most likely not. Similarly, you should be cautious if a stranger sends you an email with questionable attachments or photographs. These emails could occasionally be spam, but they could also covertly carry malicious links. Please mark those emails as spam if you use Gmail so we can better filter out emails like this in the future.
5. Never Trust Popup Ads that Ask you to Download Software
While surfing the Internet, you may come across websites that show windows telling you that your computer is infected and asking you to download security software. Avoid falling for this ploy. Make sure to close the popup window without clicking inside it.
6. Limit Your File sharing
You may exchange files with other people effortlessly on some websites and programs. Many of these websites and programs provide little malware protection. Use caution to avoid viruses when swapping or downloading files over these file-sharing techniques. Malware frequently assumes the form of a well-known film, song, game, or application.
7. Use Good AntiVirus
If you must download something, make sure it is malware-free by using an antivirus tool before opening it. You can also scan your entire machine for infection using antivirus software. Running routine computer scans is a good idea to find malicious software early and stop them from spreading.
This was all about malware. It is a software program intended to pose a threat to computer programs and computer systems, networks, and devices. Worms, trojan horses, spyware, viruses, and ransomware are some popular types of malware. They all have the malicious intent of stealing sensitive data, damaging or manipulating data, or hijacking computer functions. You can find many other types of software programs that have common traits with malware but are different.
We hope this article provides you with complete knowledge about malware and its defenses.
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