Chapter 2: Types of malware attacks and how to recognize them

Internet appliance maker SonicWall reported 10.52 billion malware attacks in 2018, a sharp rise from the 8.62 billion recorded in 2017. For you to effectively protect your company from this threat, you must first be familiar with the different types of malware and the dangers they pose.

The most common types of malware are:

#1. Viruses

Computer viruses are malicious codes designed to change how a computer works. A virus’s effect is usually negative, such as corrupting files stored in your system. Like the pathogens they’re named after, computer viruses require a host — an executable code or a document — and can “infect” other programs or files through actions made by users. This ability to spread makes viruses difficult to remove, which is why antivirus software typically quarantines or downright deletes infected files instead.

#2. Worms

Unlike viruses, worms do not need to be attached to “hosts.” They don’t need users to click on them or unknowingly execute a command. Once a worm infects your system, it self-replicates, with all replicas having the ability to multiply further. This makes it potentially more dangerous and harder to control than a computer virus.

#3. Trojan

If, while browsing the internet, you suddenly find a pop-up window that tells you your computer is infected with a virus, then you have encountered a potential Trojan. Like the mythical Trojan Horse, a Trojan masquerades as a helpful software, such as antivirus software, but is actually designed to harm your system. Like a virus, Trojans must be executed by users. What makes this type of malware so dangerous is how quick and easy it is to build. There are currently so many out there on the internet — with more being created as of this writing — that keeping up has become a major challenge for producers of anti-malware applications.

#4. Ransomware

Once executed, this type of malware blocks users’ access to their files or components of their system. Users are then informed that they can only regain access after they pay a specified sum, usually through cryptocurrency. The FBI recommends not paying up, however. Payment does not guarantee the release of your files — in some cases, users found that their data remained encrypted and unusable even after paying the required ransom.

#5. Adware

This malware opens your system to unwanted ads or redirects your internet searches to look-alike pages with even more advertisements. Considered more as an annoyance than a threat, adware can become dangerous when its authors sell your browsing behavior and private information to third parties or use them to send you even more ads.

#6. Malvertising

This refers to harmful code that is injected into legitimate ads. Once users click on the ads, they may land on a malicious website or end up installing malware onto their computer. Some examples of malvertising execute automatically even without any action from users.

#7. Spyware

This type of malware is often used to spy on the victim’s computer activities or log their keystrokes, giving hackers access to confidential information such as login credentials. Most examples of spyware are easy to remove and, thus, are not considered as dangerous as other types of malware, but they indicate the presence of vulnerabilities that can be exploited for more nefarious cyberattacks.

#8. Hybrids

Also known as exotic malware, hybrid malware manifests characteristics from different types of malware. For instance, a program can appear as a Trojan but act like a worm. This type of malware is harder to remove than traditional types and requires a thorough understanding of its possible mechanisms and actions.

Protecting your business

Just because you’ve installed antivirus software doesn’t mean your network is invulnerable to malware. Protect your business’s data on all fronts by investing in a comprehensive approach that includes solutions like firewalls and cloud backups.

Partnering with IT experts can also help you stay updated on new and ever-evolving malware. These experts can also help you identify cybersecurity solutions that address your business’s needs, as well as connect you with reliable and high-end vendors that offer these solutions.

To effectively protect your company from ransomware, you need to understand what it is and its impact on your organization.

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Zeta Sky

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