Malware is short for malicious software, and it’s likely if you’ve ever owned a computer, you’ve fallen victim to its damaging effects – whether you’ve known it, or not. Essentially, malware is any computer program designed to infiltrate and do harm to a computer.
Once a computer is compromised, the seriousness of the malware’s effects can vary, and the number of strains out there is huge. Typically, though, malware infects servers, leading to data loss and disruption, sometimes even rendering entire systems useless.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the common types of malware, the similarities and differences between them, infamous cases throughout the years that have made headline news, and Secura’s Web Protect security solution.
The term ‘virus’ is often incorrectly used to label malware as a whole, but in fact viruses are only a small sub-category of the much bigger family of malware. Viruses are harmful pieces of code that infect systems and spread rapidly to others, often through emails or internet downloads, attached to a file or program. Once a virus has compromised your computer, it can trigger email spam, corrupt data, even erase entire disks. Common symptoms include poor system performance and crashes, email spam and pop ups.
Trojans are known for their versatile and harmful exploit abilities. Often designed to trick the user into running them through social engineering methods, each trojan is designed to perform a specific malicious activity. A few examples include backdoor trojans which provide the hacker with remote control access, banking trojans which target financial accounts and downloader trojans which deploy ransomware. The amount of strains of trojans is massive and the criminal activities they can perform are extensive.
Ransomware works by locking systems and files, or encrypting data, and demanding a payment for its removal. Most commonly, ransomware is spread through phishing scams and email attachments, gaining control through social engineering tools designed to trick the user into running it. Hackers may target organisations whose operations critically depend on their systems and are more likely to pay quickly, such as medical facilities, however, most ransomware is indiscriminate. There’s also no guarantee the terms of demand will be met upon payment.
Adware is advertising supported software, and not all of it is actually malicious. However, when it is designed to do harm, it can be both frustrating for the user and debilitating for the computer. Adware is usually buried in other downloads – sometimes even attached to legitimate programs, and therefore easily downloaded mistakenly by the user. The symptoms of adware include bombardments of pop-up advertisements, a change in the web-browser homepage and unwarranted redirections to websites.
Spyware is designed to remain hidden in a computer, making its presence hard to detect. It quietly gathers information and tracks the user’s activity, sometimes without consent. Similar to adware, spyware is often downloaded by mistake, latched onto other downloads, and may not necessarily be malicious in its function. It can send the data it learns, possibly for targeted advertising purposes, or in sophisticated criminal attacks logged passwords and other sensitive information.
A particularly effective form of self-replicating malware, worms don’t require user interaction to spread. Instead of attaching themselves to other programs, worms infect computers through exploiting its vulnerabilities, often via bugs in legitimate software, and moves onto other systems through its host’s connections. Worms can be used to inject other malware or grant remote access of the system to the hacker. The first symptoms of a computer worm may include a significant decrease in available disk space, poor performance or missing files.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer worm was identified. It spread rapidly and extensively but did almost no harm to the average computers it infected. Instead, it targeted those related to uranium enrichment, or in simpler terms, those involved with nuclear programmes. Essentially, Stuxnet altered machinery to spin for too fast and for too long, ultimately damaging or even destroying the physical infrastructure. At the same time, it told the user that everything was working as intended. By the time it had been detected, it was probably too late.
An infamous computer virus called ‘ILOVEYOU’ became an international phenomenon in 2000, infecting an estimated 10% of every internet connected computer in the world. Attached to an email as a file named ‘I love you’, once downloaded it sent itself to everyone in the address book and overwrote files, leaving the computer unable to be turned on. It’s spread was so extensive that Governments and large businesses took their email systems offline to avoid catching it!
In 2017, the so-called ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack cost medical and healthcare services a staggering £92 million. Dubbed the biggest ransomware attack in history, the global cyberattack swept through over 80 hospitals and trusts, forcing approximately 19,000 appointments to be cancelled. Microsoft had released a patch to counteract this form of virus, but many had failed to deploy it leaving their machines open to infection. WannaCry encrypted data and demanded payments of $300-$600.
In today’s climate, securing your business online is imperative; that’s why we’ve developed an advanced online security solution to ensure our customers stay protected. Web Protect blends together the industry leading network security and web service protection technologies in a seamless, fully managed service that removes the stress and workload from your team.
“Secura take the subject of anti-virus and malware prevention very seriously and we always include ESET anti-virus as standard with our management package to ensure that our customers stay protected. As well as this, we always advise our customers on the further methods they should take to protect themselves. Examples of this might include tightening existing firewall rules and permissions, or adding advanced security solutions such as Alert Logic – one of several technologies included in Secura’s Web Protect offering.”
Chris Magee, Pre-Sales Engineer.
An overview of the Web Protect services can be seen below.
Thank you for reading this blog post, we hope it’s been helpful, and you’ve learnt a thing or two about malware. If you have any questions regarding cloud security or Secura’s Web Protect, please feel free to get in touch.
Image credit: local_doctor/Shutterstock.com
Matthew is Secura's content specialist, producing gripping, emotionally complex, edge of your seat, cloud hosting articles and videos.
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