There are millions of types of malware programs with potentially more being created every single day. Of the several types of malware, most will generally fall into a few types. The most popular of those being viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, adware, malvertising and spyware. In order to avoid an attack, it can be helpful to know the basics of each one and how they work.
It’s common for all types of malware to be called viruses by regular users. However, most malware isn’t even a virus. A virus is a type of malware that modifies legitimate files from the host so that every time the file is executed, the virus is also executed. Viruses are the only type of malware that can be capable of infecting other files, so it’s a good thing they aren’t as common as other types of attacks.
A type of malware that has been around even longer than viruses is worms. They were born around the same time that email became a common mode of online communication in the 1990’s. Worms can spread quickly; in contrast to viruses that need action to kick it off, worms have the ability to spread without end-user action. Worms arrive as message attachments. Once the user opens it, it spreads to the next contact group, and then to their contact groups, and so on.
While worms used to be the attack of choice for hackers, they have mostly been replaced with Trojans. Trojans are disguised as a legitimate program and can arrive in an email or can be pushed on users when they visit infected websites. A common type of trojan that we have seen before is a fake antivirus program. A trick they may use to get the user to install the fake program is for a pop up to claim that the device is infected. The pop up will suggest you install their fake program to “clean” your device. Many unsuspecting users will fall for this and the trojan will take root. Trojans can be hard to defend against because they spread by tricking the end-user. Patches, firewalls, and/or other defense mechanisms that are in place are not able to stop this.
Ransomware is a malware program that once it’s taken hold and stolen data, will hold the data hostage and demand a payment in cryptocurrency. In the last few years, this type of attack has made up a huge percentage of all malware. It’s most common for ransomware programs to be Trojans, spread through social engineering. Unfortunately, payment doesn’t always mean that files will get unlocked in a ransomware attack. According to a CSO Online article, about a quarter of victims pay the ransom in the event of an attack, and of these, only about 30% of these people will gain access to their data back.
Adware is an attack that attempts to expose the user to unwanted, potentially malicious advertising. It’s common for an adware program to redirect a user’s web searches to look-alike shopping pages.
Similar to adware, Malvertising will use ads to bait the user. Different from adware however, is that a malvertising attack will use legitimate ads to bait the user. For example, a cybercriminal might purchase ad space for a real ad on a real website and use this ad to redirect users to a malicious website, or even install malware on their device.
According to CSO Online, spyware is actually most often used by people who want to monitor the computer activities of loved ones. Of course, cybercriminals will also use spyware in order to watch their victims enter sensitive information, therefore gaining access to some of their intellectual property.
If you suspect that you have become the victim of a malware attack of any kind, ITS would be happy to help out. Give us a call at (319)465-4463, or email our helpdesk at firstname.lastname@example.org.