Malware in simple terms is malicious software. Developed by cyber thieves who mean to gain access to or destroy computers or networks, malware infections can happen so fast and so subtly that the victims often don’t even know they’ve been compromised right away. Often called computer viruses, malware is a broad term for several different types of malicious programs.
Different Types of Malware
Just as there are many types of software that we know and use each day, there are many different types of malware. These destructive programs have evolved over time and come with different functions depending on the intentions of the developer. Malware includes, but isn’t limited to, the following:
- Adware: The malware definition of adware is software that displays unwanted advertisements on your computer when you’re online. It can even redirect your search engine searches to websites preprogrammed into its code.
- Botnet: A private group of computers infected with malware that’s controlled as a group to send spam, mostly without the owners’ knowledge.
- Computer Worm: The primary function of this malware is to replicate and infect other computers while staying active on infected systems.
- Computer viruses: Like a biological virus, computer viruses spread from one computer to the next with the ability to replicate itself. Also, like biological viruses, they can’t replicate without a host like a document or a file.
- Ransomware: Malware engineered to completely block access to a computer until a ransom is paid to cyber thieves.
- Spyware: A form of malware that lets a user access private information from another computer and monitor its activities. The information is then transmitted to a third party from their hard drive.
- Trojans: Sometimes called a Trojan horse, this form of malware is often disguised as trusted software or applications designed to get access to a user’s system. Users are manipulated into downloading and executing the files on their computers.
- Wiper Malware: This malware types wipes clean the hard drive of the infected computer.
How Malware is Delivered
Malware is most commonly spread through phishing emails with email attached payloads. The quality and variety of the malware vary widely. Some thieves hope someone who receives their email will go through and click on the attachment or links thoughtlessly to complete the desired action. Other more sophisticated approaches try to deceive the victim into thinking they’ve won a contest, have banking or other payment gateway errors, has tax or even legal trouble to manipulate them into completing an action.
The target of such attacks can be specific businesses or organizations or they can be sent out trying to ensnare random individuals. Malware can impact Windows and Mac systems alike along with mobile devices. Everyday items or utilities of all types that are connected to the internet like industrial control systems, surveillance cameras and toys can be infected.
Malware also can be distributed manually via external devices like USB or flash drives which is why businesses would be wise to limit and monitor such use on their computers or networks. There are many other ways malware can grow and spread without user interaction using networks and other software weak points.
The Rise of Fileless Malware
While each day security experts are devising ways to prevent traditional malware attacks, cyber thieves have been forced to get creative and find other ways to get their destructive code out to unsuspecting people.
Fileless malware involves the use of zero-day exploits or launching scripts from memory to infect endpoints that leave no trail behind for tracking. The techniques work because such attacks use a computer’s own trusted system files and services to gain access to devices and launch malicious activity. Since the exploit is using the computer’s own files and services, it flies beneath the radar of anti-virus programs.
How Can Businesses Protect Themselves Against Malware?
Good cybersecurity is vital in protecting businesses in an age of growing cyber-attacks.
First, ensuring all software is kept up-to-date and fully patched as soon as updates are made available is vital. Most such updates and patches are developed because vulnerabilities have been identified in the software and they provide increased protection. Likewise, any and all operating system updates should be processed as soon as possible after release for the same reasons.
Cybersecurity software is another great preventive measure businesses can take and should also be kept up-to-date. Such programs offer protection from many forms of malware.
Educating all employees using computers and networks in your business about malware will ensure they’re better prepared to identify and help prevent cyber-attacks. The implementation of policies on acceptable system use along with the development of plans on how to deal with online attacks are great proactive ways of dealing with potential threats quickly to minimize or prevent any data loss or damage.
Finally, businesses should also consider the services of vetted, experienced cybersecurity experts. These experts help prevent such attacks through their knowledge of databases, encryption, firewalls, hardware, networks and more.
Each year businesses everywhere lose thousands of dollars as a result of cyber attacks. Just as costly can be the damage to the business’s reputation and brand if customer information is compromised in any way. In having strong cybersecurity in place, you can enjoy peace of mind and spend more time focusing on growing your business instead of defending it.