What Is Malware? Types and How to Prevent?

What Is Malware? Types and How to Prevent?

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Anshuman
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 09:25 IST

With each passing day, technology advances at a rapid pace. And, every day, attackers use more sophisticated attacks, such as malware, salami attack, logic bomb attack, etc., to cause harm or achieve their selfish goals. Hence, the need for cybersecurity experts is increasing rapidly to protect all data categories from theft and damage.

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In this article, we will discuss one of the most popular attacks that various attackers use- Malware. So what exactly is malware? Before we answer this question, let’s go through the topics that we will be covering in this blog:

What is malware?

Malware can be any software or mobile application shared online by an attacker to infect, explore, steal, or conduct virtually any behavior an attacker wants. Malware is also known asmalicious software”. It is specially tailored to damage a computer, a smartphone, the software, or users. Malware engages in malicious behavior, such as installing software without the user’s permission and trying to install harmful software such as viruses and trojans.

Malicious software comes in many varieties, each with its own set of objectives. All malicious software share two distinguishing characteristics: they are sneaky and actively work against your best interests. Cybercriminals generally use this to retrieve the information they can use to gain a financial advantage over victims. This information can range from financial information to login details.

You can also explore: What is cybersecurity?

How does malware work?

Malware typically infects a machine by tricking users into downloading or installing a program from the Internet that they should not. Malicious software is not activated automatically unless and until it is activated. A click, typically on a link or pop-up, is one of the most common triggers. The descriptions could include something provocative, such as, “Your computer has been infected! To run a scan, click here.” When a user clicks on the pop up, a malicious payload is downloaded, even if the user does not select one of the options displayed or is simply trying to close the pop up.

Once downloaded, the program begins making unauthorized changes to the system. These modifications may include tracking user behavior, altering search engine results, adding icons to a desktop, displaying pop-ups, redirecting to unsafe sites, etc.

You can also explore: Who is an ethical hacker?

Types of malware 

Attackers can deliver malicious software in various ways, depending on the intent of the person who created it. There are numerous types of it, each with its traits and characteristics. Let’s look at the most common types of malicious software:

Virus

It is one of the most common types of malware which can replicate itself and spread from one file or program to another. In today’s time, some of the common viruses are ILOVEYOU, SQL Slammer, Stuxnet, etc.

Worm

A worm can self-replicate without the assistance of a host program and typically spreads without the involvement of the malware authors. In today’s time, some of the common worms are Morris, Beagle WannaCry, etc.

Spyware

It is malicious software installed on your computer and starts monitoring your internet behavior without your knowledge or consent. Some of the famous examples of spyware are Gator, HawkEye, HuntBar, etc.

Logic Bombs

A logic bomb is a string of malicious code intentionally inserted into a program to cause network harm when certain conditions are met. Attackers frequently combine these bombs with trojan horses, worms, and viruses to maximize damage.

Ransomware

This prevents a user or organization from accessing files on their computer. Attackers might encrypt these files and demand a ransom for the decryption key.

Adware

This displays unwanted advertisements on your computer. These programs will display pop-up ads, change your browser’s homepage, install spyware, and otherwise bombard your device with advertisements.

Bot

It is a computer program programmed to perform specific tasks without requiring a human user to initiate them each time. Echobot is one of the real-world examples of this type of malware.

Keystroke logger

A keystroke logger monitors and records each keystroke made on a specific computer, assisting in monitoring one’s computer activity. Olympic Vision is one of the real-world examples of this type of malware.

You can also explore: What is a Denial-of- Service (DoS) attack?

Is malware dangerous?

As we have seen, malicious software is the root cause of most cyberattacks, including large-scale data breaches that result in widespread identity theft and fraud. Most of these attacks succeed due to malware, causing harm to the system and its security without the owner’s consent or knowledge.

Malware is also responsible for ransomware attacks, which cause millions of dollars in damage. Hackers use Malware attacks for various purposes, including cracking weak passwords, disrupting an organization’s daily operations, locking up essential files, spamming you with ads, slowing down your computer, or redirecting you to malicious websites. Hence, malware is one of the biggest threats out there in the world of modern technology.

How to detect malware? 

How can you tell if your system is infected with malware? You can learn various visible signs that indicate you have been the victim of a malware attack. Some examples of such indicators are:

Regular crashes: Some malware will cause a crash by consuming excessive RAM.

Corrupted files: Attackers frequently use malware to corrupt files in order to impede the work of an organization or individual for their gain.

Unfamiliar apps: Malicious software can install undesired apps on your device. If you notice new programs you did not install, it could result from a malware attack.

A ransom note: A ransom note is one of the surest signs that your system has been infected with malware.

Lots of pop-up ads: Attackers can flood your system with adware (a type of malware) to spam you with pop-ups that, when clicked, install unwanted software without the owner’s permission.

Browser redirects: If your browser keeps redirecting you to sites you’re not looking for, a malware attack may have changed your DNS settings.

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Methods or ways to remove malware

If you suspect or know that your system has a malicious software, here are the steps you should take immediately to remove the malware.

Antivirus: Install antivirus software if you don’t already have it. If you already have one, ensure it is up to date with the most recent virus definitions. As new viruses and Trojans emerge, antivirus vendors constantly update these lists. You risk infection if your software is even a day out of date.

Use the Restore option: If you have System Restore points configured in Windows, take advantage of this opportunity to reset the system. This will eliminate the malware from the system.

Use Windows Defender: Windows Defender is a free antivirus/anti-malware program with Windows that works excellent for removing viruses, adware, and spyware.

Delete temporary files: Delete your temporary files to get rid of any malicious apps or programs that you may have recently downloaded and are the source of your malware infection.

Use a malicious software removal tool: Suppose you want to run a scan, but a specific malware prevents you from doing so. Then, you can use the malicious software removal tool, which is available for free download from the Microsoft Store.

How to prevent malware? 

Some of the most common ways to prevent malicious software attacks are:

Install antivirus software: Antivirus programs can scan computer files for malware and remove them. Keep your security tools up to date.

Multi-factor authentication: To improve the security of your device, use secure authentication methods such as two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication in addition to a password.

Limit application privileges: All a hacker needs is an open the door to infiltrate your company. Reduce the number of potential entry points by limiting application privileges on your devices.

Implement email security and spam filtering: Email is an important business communication tool and a common malware distribution channel. It would help if you constantly scanned all incoming email messages for malware, including attachments, to reduce the risk of infection.

Use administrative privileges sparingly: Malware frequently has the same privileges as the active user. Access to the most sensitive parts of a computer or network system is typically denied to non-administrator accounts. As a result, do not use administrative privileges to browse the web or check email.

Maintain software updates: Software vendors release patches and updates regularly to address any new vulnerabilities. Validate and install all new software patches as a best practice.

Use Safe browsing feature: Google Safe Browsing is a free service that guards website owners and users against malicious sites and downloads. According to tech giant Google, this service protects over 4 billion devices daily.

Laws in India related to a malware attack? 

Cybercrime has increased in tandem with increased Internet usage. There are numerous stories in the media today about cyber crimes ranging from identity theft to data breaches to phishing attacks. As a result, legislation was required to address such activities. There are numerous laws governing cybersecurity, which vary greatly depending on the territorial extent of each country.

In 1986, the Indian government made the first cyber law known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It forbids unauthorized computer access and the illegal use of digital information. India has several sections according to which Indian government bodies handle cyberattack cases. Some of these sections are as follows:

Section 43: This section applies to individuals who commit cybercrimes, such as causing damage to the victim’s computer. If an attacker damages a computer without the owner’s consent, the owner can get a reimbursement for the entire damage.

Section 66: This section applies to any dishonest or fraudulent conduct described in Section 43. In such cases, the penalty can be up to three years or a fine of up to ₹ 5 lakh.

Section 66C: This section concerns digital signatures, password hacking, and other forms of identity theft. This section carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of one lakh rupees.

Section 66D: This section deals with cheating through personation via computer resources. The attacker can be imprisoned for three years and a fine of up to ₹ 1 lakh.

Conclusion

Malware authors or cyber attackers can spread malware that infects devices and networks through various physical and virtual means. As a result, it is preferable to take the precautions discussed above rather than be sorry later. Furthermore, if you are a victim of a malicious software attack, you may file a claim under the laws listed above.

FAQs

What are the three most common ways for malware to spread?

The three most common ways malware spreads are phishing emails, social network spam, and downloads from a compromised website.

What are the three primary methods of malware protection?

The three most common ways malware spreads are phishing emails, social network spam, and downloads from a compromised website.

What malware requires a host?

To grow and spread, a computer virus requires a "host program," just as a biological virus requires a host organism.

What is the most effective malware defense?

A robust antivirus monitoring and removal program and firewall software are the best defenses for your network against malware.

Is malware capable of installing itself?

Malware can install itself. It can be installed automatically when you connect an infected drive to your PC or install an infected data package.

Is there a different term for malware?

Yes, "malicious software" is another term for malware.

About the Author
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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio