Security and cybersecurity are very broad subjects. Someone wise, whose name I cannot recall, once said that the first step to avoiding danger is being aware of its existence.

First of all, it is important to realize that if you download something from an unknown source, there is a chance that it contains malicious software, that is, malware. The name “malware” refers to specially designed software that works against users. There are several types of malware and knowing them keeps us safer.

However, before moving on to the types of malware, I would like to discuss the ways it spreads.

Malware – how does it spread?

Malware can spread in many different ways. These days, it is common to use various psychological tricks, commonly known as phishing. One example of such a trick is sending messages, which, when opened, spread by sending a copy of themselves to all contacts. What is more, they replace important files on the computer. This seemingly trivial method enabled one of the largest attacks in the history of the internet. During the attack, almost 10% of computers connected to the network were infected, and email servers suffered heavy overload.

The most common ways of becoming infected by malware include:

  • downloading software that pretends to be a different program,
  • clicking links, adverts, or attachments,
  • connecting an infected data carrier.

Now that we know how malware spreads, it is time to discuss its types.

 

Malware – what are its types?

Viruses are the most common type. The name stems from the classic definition because pathogens and this kind of malware share similar characteristics, such as the unlimited ability to replicate and easy transmission between hosts. They take up very little space because they attach themselves to the existing code and can affect the operation of other software. In this way, not only are they able to delete or steal data, but also take control of the entire device.

Worms, unlike viruses, spread across the network, attempting to reach as many devices as possible. They spread by taking advantage of our carelessness and or the vulnerabilities of the system, for example, zero-day (it refers to the time the developers of a program or security software have known about its vulnerability).

Trojan owes its name to the horse made of wood that was described in Homer’s Odyssey. It had a similar principle of operation. This type of malware pretends to be another program downloaded from the internet and this trick allows it to infect multiple computers. The main task of this type of malware is to allow another malware program to operate and wreak havoc on the system.

Ransomware is the next point on the list. It is software that forces a victim to pay a ransom. Its job is to encrypt files and block access to them, and then blackmail the owner to buy them back. Businesses are usually the targets of attacks because, for them, paying the ransom often causes less damage than service downtime. A break in operation can even lead to the company’s bankruptcy. Cryptocurrencies are currently the most popular payment method for ransom as they provide relative anonymity. Nevertheless, there are already known cases of such blackmailers being tracked down.

A rootkit is a type of malware that allows access to the administrator’s account. This form of attack is usually very difficult to disclose because it is possible to conceal traces of such activity.

Cryptocurrency mining software (cryptomining) strongly affects the performance of the computer. It is installed to exploit the victim’s device and fill up the attacker’s wallet. This type of malware often hides under innocent-looking applications. The user looks for the source of the problem in hardware instead of investigating recently installed applications. One of the most notorious cryptomining scandals was the one involving apps available in Microsoft Store. However, once the malicious software was detected, the giant from Redmond reacted immediately.

The last type is spyware, or spying software in a broad sense. The most popular malware of this type is a keylogger, which is designed to record all characters entered on the keyboard and send them to the attacker. The main threat is the possibility of taking over your bank account or social media profile.

 

READ ALSO: SECURE IT – THE SECURITY POLICY IN THE ORGANIZATION.

 

Malware – how to protect yourself?

Awareness of possible threats is the first step to safety. There is no better method than prevention – it is not only less engaging but also cheaper than fixing the damage. The simplest and most basic methods of protection include:

  • continuous operation of the Windows firewall,
  • scanning your device regularly for unwanted software,
  • careful use of the internet when downloading and opening links and attachments,
  • keeping your operating system and antivirus program up to date.

Author

  • Krzysztof Nancka
  • Software tester
  • Tester associated with the industry for almost 5 years. At that time, he implemented projects in the e-commerce sector. Always eager for new projects, as he combines work with passion. Security enthusiast who privately deals with Viking historical reconstruction and traditional archery.

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