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Malware Explained – What is it, how does it work and how to avoid it

March 6, 2023

What is malware?

 

The term ‘malware’ is short for ‘malicious software’. It includes any type of intrusive software designed to steal data and/or damage computer systems. It is created by cybercriminals, aka hackers, and malware attacks are regularly used to access sensitive data in large quantities. Common types of malware include ransomware, spyware, adware and viruses.

 

What does malware do?

 

Malware is harmful software that invades computer networks to steal data and corrupt systems. Generally speaking, the goal is to create chaos and/or steal information for monetary gain. Sometimes, the goal is simply sabotage or espionage.Here are some of the main aims of malware;

 

Intrusion to Gain Intelligence

In this type of malware attack, personal and/or corporate data is stolen. This can include email communications, plans and, most commonly, sensitive information like login details.

 

Disruption and Extortion

Malware can lock computers and networks so that they become unusable. Essentially, computer systems are held hostage for financial gain – this is what ransomware is all about.

 

Destruction and Vandalism

These types of attacks destroy computer systems and often wreak havoc with networks. This can be politically or economically motivated, or it can simply be for the amusement the cyber criminals.

 

Theft of Computer Resources

Malware can use other people’s computing power to secretly run things like botnets or crypto mining programs without the user’s knowledge. Think of the malware as a parasite.

 

Monetary Gain

Stolen intellectual property acquired through the use of malware can be sold on the dark web.

 

Common Types of Malware

 

Ransomware

This accesses sensitive information within your system and encrypts it so that you no longer have access. It then holds that information hostage, demanding payment for it to be released. This often comes with phishing scams, tricking people into clicking a disguised link that downloads the malicious software.

 

Adware

This collects data on your activities whilst using your computer in order to provide targeted adverts for you. This may not always be dangerous, but it can cause browsers to redirect to unsafe sites. It can even contain Trojan viruses and spyware that can be harmful.

 

Spyware and Trojan Viruses

These types of software run secretly on your computer and send information to a remote user. Trojans disguise themselves as useful software whilst spyware simply hides in the background. Trojans can even be used to remotely modify, block or delete data, which can be harmful to system performance. Spyware, meanwhile, can steal passwords and personal data by logging your keystrokes.

 

Viruses

These programs attach to documents or files and spread once activated. They often disrupt the operations of systems and can cause substantial loss of data or operational issues.

 

Worms

These are a type of malicious software that swiftly self-replicates to spread to other devices on a network. They don’t require host programs to piggyback on – the infection arrives with a downloaded file and immediately multiplies exponentially. This can severely disrupt operations and cause data loss.

 

Fileless Malware

Fileless malware resides in the memory, so it doesn’t require files to operate. Without files to scan, it can be harder to detect than more traditional malware. It also makes it more difficult for forensics to detect since the malware disappears when the computer is rebooted.

 

8 Signs That You Might Have a Malware Infection?

 

Malware manifests in a number of insidious behaviours, but there are several telltale signs that malware has infiltrated your system:

 

  • Your computer suddenly starts operating much slower. This is because the malware is a drain on system resources, particularly in botnet attacks.
  • You are suddenly inundated with unwanted ads. Random pop-ups are a symptom of an adware infection, often telling you that you have won something or been selected for a special offer.
  • You may experience a total system crash. It may simply freeze, or you may find yourself unable to start the operating system.
  • There is a mysterious loss of disk space. This could be a sign of a malware squatter hiding on your hard drive.
  • Your system’s internet activity mysteriously increases. Trojans or spyware could be reaching out to the attacker’s server to download secondary infections or send data.
  • You notice changes in your browser settings. A change in the homepage or the appearance of new toolbars you didn’t add are common symptoms.
  • You find that your antivirus software stops running and can’t be turned back on.
  • You become unable to access your files or the entire computer. This is a symptom of a malware attack. You will probably find a ransom note that tells you what you must do to regain access to your systems.
  • Often, sophisticated malware attacks are very subtle and difficult to detect. This enables it to keep doing what it does without you noticing. The suggestions in this section are a good guide, but it’s important to have more sophisticated tools in place for advanced malware detection.

 

How can I detect and respond to a malware attack?

 

For many organisations, it is inevitable that there will be a malware breach. To protect against this, you need defences that allow extensive visibility and the ability to swiftly detect breaches. Removing malware requires fast identification of malicious actors, which can only be achieved through round-the-clock network scanning.

Once a threat is detected, it must be removed from your network right away. Current antivirus products are not sufficient to offer protection against the most advanced cyber threats.

 

What is the best form of protection against malware?

 

The strongest line of defence against breaches is prevention. If you have a secure perimeter, it is more difficult for hackers to access your networks. But more advanced attacks can still penetrate these defences in some cases. This is why it’s important to have technologies in place that monitor and detect malware in real-time in case something evades those perimeter defences.

Adequate advanced malware protection requires numerous layers of safeguarding measures. You also need premium network visibility and intelligence. It’s also highly advisable to work with cybersecurity service providers if you want to avoid a malware infection in your business.

 

Why choose Eventura for a your cybersecurity?

 

With over 20 years experience in cybersecurity, we know our stuff. Our team of cybersecurity experts and complete a full audit of your business and identify any areas of weakness, which could leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks.

We were even mentioned in the Governments National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Annual Review 2020 when we were chosen to test their “Exercise in a Box” designed to help small businesses prepare and respond to cyberthreats.

There is a common misconception that cyberattacks don’t happen to SMEs but this couldn’t be further from the truth. With our expert knowledge, we can help you protect your business’s future from the ever increasing threat of cybercriminals.

If you would like to speak to one of our cybersecurity experts or request a cybersecurity audit, you can request a free call back here.

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