Malware Attacks: What They Are And How To Protect Against Them

With more than 1 billion malware programs in circulation and 5.5 billion attacks globally in 2022, malware seriously threatens your business operations. It can be deployed by cybercriminals such as terrorists, gangs, and even other businesses. And it can come with severe consequences, including financial and reputational risk.

Following from last week’s post, Everything You Need to Know about Cyberattacks, we will dig deep into what malware is, the types of malware to watch out for, and how to protect your business.

What Is Malware?

Malware is malicious software that is used to infiltrate and cause harm to a device, network, or system. It gains access to a system as a seemingly harmless program that is attached to an email or embedded in links in ads or on websites that appear legitimate but are not. Once the malware has been installed on the system, network, or device, it executes its program. This program is typically designed to do one of three things:

  • Extract data – The program will locate and steal sensitive data, such as financial information, personal credentials, and sensitive company data.
  • Disrupt operations – Whether it’s a single file that becomes corrupted or an entire network that is made to self-destruct, there are many ways malware can disrupt the operations of a business.
  • Demand payment – The goal here is to convince the target to pay money by scaring them with baseless threats or withholding access to their data or entire systems until payment is made.

There are many different types of malware that have been designed to accomplish one or more of these goals. Let’s take a closer look at these.

Types of Malware

There are many types of malware, some designed for specific purposes and some with a broader scope of destruction built into their design. The ten most common types of malware are described here.

Adware

You might know Adware by the term spam, advertising that could be malicious and unwanted that pops up on your computer. At the very least, adware is a nuisance that can disrupt your flow of work and slow your device down. At its worst, it can be a gateway for other types of malware to access your device or system.

Viruses

A virus is a type of malware that is designed to infiltrate your computer or system and, through human interaction, infect one file after another, encrypting, corrupting, and/or deleting your files and the data they contain. They are often introduced to a system through a phishing email.

Worms

A worm is similar to a virus but doesn’t require human interaction to move through the target system. Instead, it can duplicate itself and is most often used to attack a device’s hard drive or memory.

Ransomware

Ransomware is the most common type of malware used. Once unleashed, they encrypt the data on a device or system. Payment of a ransom by a specified deadline is demanded for the data to be restored.

Scareware

Scareware is similar to ransomware. The primary difference is that the software makes the target think there is a virus infecting their device or system when there isn’t. The threats are baseless, but the target may be scared enough to download the fake antivirus software offered to them, which can install more insidious malware.

Fileless malware

This is malware that doesn’t use an executable file to target files and folders on a device or system the same way traditional malware does. Instead, it will focus on non-file targets like system tools like PowerShell and WMI.

Trojans

A Trojan is a program that is most often introduced through social engineering. It appears to be legitimate, which causes the user to execute it, after which the program can spread throughout the device or system and cause significant harm.  

Spyware

Spyware is used to covertly monitor the activities of a user on a device, network, or system. This allows the attacker to collect credentials that they can use to access the system independently and steal confidential or sensitive information.

Bots

A bot is an automated software program that doesn’t require human interaction to perform its required tasks. This allows it to execute an attack much more quickly and spread the bot to other devices and systems. Devices that have been affected can then be controlled and used to launch additional attacks.

Rootkits

Not originally designed to be used as malware, rootkits are becoming a common tool among attackers. Using a rootkit allows the attacker to gain administrative-level access to a device, system, or network. This access is concealed and allows them to make changes, install additional malware, or launch another type of attack.

How to Protect Against Malware

It might seem impossible to protect your business with all these types of malware. It’s true that you can never guarantee 100% protection from malware, but you can take the following steps to minimize the risk:

  • Educate employees on how to recognize suspicious emails, websites, and links and what to do if they discover one.
  • Adopt a Zero Trust policy by assuming that every user is untrustworthy until they have been verified, despite the credentials they use.
  • Use monitoring and detection tools to look for unusual behavior that could be caused by malware and send out an alert so your cybersecurity team can act against it.
  • Install antivirus and antimalware software and keep them up to date.
  • Keep all hardware and software up to date with the latest versions and install patches as they are released.
  • Implement a vulnerability management program to regularly scan for vulnerabilities in your network and systems and repair or mitigate them as they are found.

Malware is a serious threat. The more secure you are, and the more prepared you are to deal with a potential malware attack, the safer your organization will be.

Reach out to Platinum Technologies to learn more about malware and how we can help you protect your business from harm.

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