What is Malware? – Malware is a malicous software that damages or disables computer systems and gives limited or full control of the systems to the malware creator for the purpose of theft or froud.
Malware is abbreviated from the term Malicious Software. The term malware is an umbrella term that defines a wide variety of potentially harmful software. This malicious software is specially designed for gaining access to target machines, stealing information and harm the target system. Any software is having malicous intention like damaging, disabling or limiting the control of the legitimate owner and providing control of the target system to the developer of malware or an attacker, or any other malicious intent can be considered as Malware.
Malware can be classified into various types including Viruses, Worms , Keyloggers, Spyware, Trojan, Ransomware and other malicous software. Malware is the most critical, prominent, emerging problem now a day, Malicious software classified as Viruses and Worm have some older techniques whereas Malware has some new techniques which makes them more dangerous.
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How Malware Works
Malware authors use a variety of physical and virtual means to spread malware that infect devices and networks. For example, malicious programs can be delivered to a system with a USB drive or can spread over the internet through drive-by downloads, which automatically download malicious programs to systems without the user’s approval or knowledge. Phishing attacks are another common type of malware delivery where emails disguised as legitimate messages contain malicious links or attachments that can deliver the malware executable to unsuspecting users. Sophisticated malware attacks often feature the use of a command-and-control server that allows threat actors to communicate with the infected systems, exfiltrate sensitive data and even remotely control the compromised device or server.
Emerging strains of malware include new evasion and obfuscation techniques that are designed to not only fool users but security administrators and anti-malware products as well. Some of these evasion techniques rely on simple tactics, such as using web proxies to hide malicious traffic or source IP addresses. More sophisticated threats include polymorphic malware, which can repeatedly change its underlying code to avoid detection from signature-based detection tools, anti-sandbox techniques, which allow the malware to detect when it is being analyzed and delay execution until after it leaves the sandbox, and fileless malware, which resides only in the system’s RAM in order to avoid being discovered.
Example Of Malware
- Trojan Horse :- It is designed to appear as a legitimate program in order to gain access to a system. Once activated following installation, Trojans can execute their malicious functions.
- Virus :- It is the most common type of malware which can execute itself and spread by infecting other programs or files.
- Backdoor :- virus or remote access Trojan (RAT) secretly creates a backdoor into an infected system that allows threat actors to remotely access it without alerting the user or the system’s security programs.
- Worms :- It can self-replicate without a host program and typically spreads without any human interaction or directives from the malware authors.
- Rootkit :- It is created to obtain administrator-level access to the victim’s system. Once installed, the program gives threat actors root or privileged access to the system.
- Spyware :- It is made to collect information and data on the device user and observe their activity without their knowledge.
- Ransomware :- It is designed to infect a user’s system and encrypt the data. Cybercriminals then demand a ransom payment from the victim in exchange for decrypting the system’s data.
Different Ways a Malware can Get into a System
Downloading files, games, and screensavers from Internet Sites
When software is available on the internet for free, it mostly contains additional software and applications which may belong to the offering organization bundled later by any third party to propogate this malicous software. Most common example of free software is like downloading crack files usually contains additional malicous software, or sometimes it only contains a malware.
Instant Messenger Applications
File Sharing Services
File sharing services such as torrent and Peer-to-peer file sharing services transfer the file from multiple computers. During the transfer, the file can be infected, or any infected file may additionally transfer with the transfer because there may be a computer having low, or no security policy.
Malware can also propagate through removable media such as USB. Various advance Removable media malware is introduced which can propagate through Storage area of USB as well as through Firmware embedded in the hardware. Apart from USB, External hard disk, CD, DVD can also bring malwares along with them.
Browser and Email Software Bugs
In an organization, email communication is the most popularly-used way of communication. Malicous software can be sent through email attachments, Email containing malicious URL.
Not using Firewall and Anti-Virus
Disabling Security Firewalls and Anti-Virus programs or not using Internet security software can also allow the malicous software to be download on a system. Anti-Virus and Internet security Firewalls can block malicious software from downloading automatically and alert upon detection.
Common Techniques Attackers Use to Distribute Malwares on the Web
Blackhat Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Ranking malwares pages highly in search results
Social Engineered Click-Jacking
Tricking users into clicking on innocent-looking webpages.
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Embedding malwares in ad-networks that display across hundreads of legitimate, high-traffic sites.
Mimicking legitimate institutions in an attempts to steal login credentials
Compromised Legitimate Websites
Hosting embedded malwares that spreads to unsuspecting visitors
Exploiting flaws in browser software to install malwares just by visiting a web page
What Does Malware Do
Ransomware is the most confrontational and direct form of malware. While other types operate undetected, ransomware makes its presence known immediately, demanding payment in exchange for returning access to your device or files.
In most cases, malware is much harder to observe, toiling quietly behind the scenes. Some types are malicious for the sake of spite, wiping important data from the infected machines. With no fraud or theft committed, the hacker’s sole reward is the frustration and setbacks experienced by their victims.
Other instances of malware result in more serious consequences. Machines infected with these types of malware capture the user’s personal or financial information, then forward it to the hacker, who uses it for purposes of financial fraud or identity theft. At this stage, simply removing malware is insufficient to remedy these offenses.
Because malware relies on the processing power of the infected device, victims often experience significant performance issues. A sudden slowdown can be a symptom of malware infection.
How will I know if my device has been infected?
Here are a few universal symptoms that may indicate the presence of malware on your device:
- Your device begins running slower than usual. If you’ve noticed a sudden slowdown with no apparent cause, it could be due to a malware infection. As the malware takes over your device’s processing resources, there’s less power available for everything else.
- You notice a shortage of available storage space. Many types of malware will download and install additional files and content onto your device. A sudden decrease in the amount of free storage could be a sign that you’ve picked up some malware.
- Pop-ups and unwanted programs appear on your device. This is one of the strongest signs that you’re experiencing a malware infection. If you’re getting slammed with pop-up ads or finding strange new programs on your device, it’s likely that malware is the culprit.
Slow performance and reduced storage space don’t always point to malwares. Over time, your device may naturally get clogged with unneeded files. It’s always a good idea to clean things up from time to time, and if performance returns to normal, you likely don’t have a malwares infection.
How to Protect Against Malware
Now that you understand a little more about malwares and the different flavors it comes in, let’s talk about protection. There are actually two areas to consider where protection is concerned: protective tools and user vigilance. The first is often the easiest to implement, simply because you can often set and forget best-in-class protective software that manages and updates itself. Users, on the other hand, can be prone to temptation (“check out this cool website!”) or easily led by other emotions such as fear (“install this antivirus software immediately”). Education is key to ensure users are aware of the risk of malwares and what they can do to prevent an attack.
With good user policies in place and the right anti-malwares solutions constantly monitoring the network, email, web requests and other activities that could put your organization at risk, malwares stands less of a chance of delivering its payload. Forcepoint’s Advanced Malwares Detection offers best-in-class malwares protection across multiple channels and is unmatched in security efficacy.