How well do you know your malware? For starters, do you know where the term 'malware' came from? (You can thank us later for this bit of trivia). It's a combination of the words 'malicious' and 'software'! It's also a term we are hearing more and more, in news reports, from beleaguered IT departments and even the plot lines of tv shows and films. And sometimes, public knowledge of what to do after encountering malware is just as simplistic. Understanding malware and its various forms is an important part of a basic cyber security toolkit, and we think you'll find some of these details as interesting as we did!
A computer virus is what most media and computer users would call malware programmes, but thankfully, most malware nowadays is not a virus! A computer virus works by modifying original files (or any connected files) so that when you open them, the virus is also 'opened' and executed. Viruses are the only type of malware that 'infects' other computer files. The infected files are incredibly difficult to clean up, and many anti-virus softwares can only solve the issue by deleting the files entirely.
Aptly-named Trojan horse malware programs masquerade as legitimate programmes, but leverage a proactive end user in order to do their damage. Hackers often create Trojans that are sent via email or pop-up when users visit an infected website and mimic an anti-virus programme, which prompts the user to download and 'clean up' their computer.
Unfortunately, Trojans are so effective because they rely on fooling the user into taking action, which is something that traditional firewalls are unable to block!
Lots of malware today is a hybrid mixture of Trojan, virus or self-replicating worm varietal. These hybrid types of malware attempt to infiltrate your network like a Trojan, and then hide inside and attempt to change the operating system and hide from any anti-malware programme.
This includes 'botnets,' which can cause your computer to carry out specific commands without your knowledge! Hackers will try and infect multiple computers with the same bot to link them together in a network, which spreads the effects of the malware to hundreds, or even thousands, of computers.
You're probably very familiar with ransomware, a type of malware that encrypts and restricts your access to important data or files, demanding a ransom payment in order to re-gain those files. As cryptocurrency has gained traction, programmes built to extract payments have increased! Ransomware can be devastating without a clean and reliable backup available, and it relies on the same tactics of social engineering that have tricked so many users into downloading Trojans.
Rootkits allow remote access or control of a computer by a third party. Once installed on your computer, rootkits allow attackers to take complete control of your machine to steal data or install other pieces of malware. Rootkits are designed to go unnoticed and actively hide their presence.