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Malicious Software Attacks Explained

  • January 23, 2019

Computer users across the globe are becoming increasingly concerned about malicious software attacks – and that too for good reason. Not only are there more different types of malicious software than ever before, but the frequency of attacks, too, has gone up considerably in recent times, resulting in numerous different types of losses.

Malicious Software Attacks Explained

Interested in learning more about what malware actually is and how the different types of malicious software can affect your systems? Read on to find out everything you need to know about malicious software attacks, and how they work.

What is Malware Exactly?

Even though we understand that the term has been tossed around excessively in recent times, the fact remains that not enough people truly grasp the concept of malware and what it actually entails.

Contrary to popular belief, malware isn’t a particular software or code that causes your systems to function abnormally. Instead, the term refers to a broad category of malicious code and software that has been created for a variety of purposes. Additionally, it is also important to note that these codes and software can affect both online users, and those who are not connected to the internet.

What are the Different Types of Malware?

As mentioned above, plenty of different types of malware exist. This is because each of these types has been created to achieve one – or many – different purposes from data theft to spying on the activities of the unknowing victim.

But how do these different types of malware make their way into your systems, you ask? In the sections to follow, we’ll be talking about that and much more!

Computer Viruses

The most popular type of malware, computer viruses infect files and programs within the system. Computer viruses are known to self-replicate, and can be created to make data inaccessible, delete data, or cause irreversible damage within the system itself.

Expert Quote

Dana edwards

“If our computers are wide open to viruses then our computers become unreliable. People are increasingly putting sensitive information on these computers and it is important that this information remain secure not just from theft but also from damage.”

Dana Edwards

Cyber-Security and Distributed Ledger Researcher

It is also important to understand that there are several different ways in which computer viruses can make their way into your systems. They can be automatically downloaded through a malicious link online, or could even make their way into your computer through USBs or other removable devices. For this reason, it is imperative for you to invest in proper antivirus software, keep your antivirus updated, and download the latest patches for your operating system to ensure that your devices continue working as effectively and efficiently as you’d like them to.

Below, you can see a notification that shows the detection of a Trojan Horse virus. The Trojan Horse is one of the most popular types of computer viruses, and is known to create backdoors in devices, allowing imposters to access your important files and data. Some variations of Trojan Horse viruses may simply be a nuisance by adding multiple files and folders in locations such as the desktop of the infected computer.

Trojan horse malware detected

The worst part about computer viruses – and Trojan Horses in particular – is that they generally disguise themselves as legitimate software or programs which is why naïve users end up clicking on and executing the malicious code.

Spyware

As the name suggests, spyware is a type of malicious software that was initially created primarily to spy on the activity of the unsuspecting victim. With time, however, spyware has advanced considerably, and is now used for purposes that range from using your device to generate traffic for host websites, or even for providing you with consistent sales offers and executing pop-ups that can be an absolute nuisance.

Interestingly enough, there are several different ways in which spyware can make its way into your systems. While spyware generally comes as part of the package with “free” software available on peer-to-peer file sharing platforms through a technique generally known as piggybacking, it is also possible for you to mistakenly download spyware when you are trying to install an add-on for a browser.

In some cases, spyware may also disguise itself as anti-spyware in order to increase its chances of being downloaded by unsuspecting victims.

Since the malicious spyware code is incessantly working in the background, spyware can drain your system of its processing power significantly.

Message notifying user of the possibility of spyware

The screenshot above notifies the user of the availability of spyware.

Adware

Adware is another type of malicious software attack that generally does more to annoy the user than actually harm the device on which it has been installed. As you might have guessed, adware constantly interrupts the user with unwanted advertisements of products and services that they would probably never be interested in.

Since these advertisements are generally displayed as pop-ups, they can often get in the way of normal activity or device usage.

In order to make the experience even more debilitating more victims, most adware today prompts multiple pop-ups to open at once, making it difficult to use the device or even close the pop-ups easily.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a very dangerous type of malicious software that tends to wreak multifaceted havoc. Generally, ransomware locks the data of unsuspecting victims, demanding them for a ransom if they would like to regain access to their files and folders through an error message.

Since the fraudsters behind these types of malicious software do not want to get caught, they demand cryptocurrency ransoms in order to maintain anonymity as much as possible.

In most cases, ransomware is known to target victims who will fall prey to the entire plot and will send money across. With that said, it’s important to note that the majority of fraudsters do not provide keys to unlock data even after they have received the payment that they had demanded. This means that ransomware can not only bar you from accessing your important files and data, but can also cost you – quite literally!

Ransomware message demanding fine as ransom

From the notification shown above, it is evident why most victims of ransomware tend to provide fraudsters with the money they have demanded. The notification prompted by ransomware generally looks extremely authentic, and fraudsters make it a point to include logos and images to make the entire scenario seem legitimate.

Keylogger

Keylogger attacks are malicious software attacks that record keystrokes of the victim in order to get hold of confidential data and information such as user IDs and passwords. Once the right amount of information is collected, it is transferred to the fraudster or hacker behind the keylogger. Needless to say, the fraudster then grabs hold of your important files, and might even make transactions on your behalf if they have sufficient information.

Keyloggers make their way into the systems of unsuspecting victims through the same techniques as other malicious software. This includes automatically downloaded email attachments and free software available online. In some cases, a keylogger can also be installed and spread through P2P networks when files are launched or executed.

Additionally, a keylogger can also be installed through the script of a webpage in case vulnerabilities are detected in the browser. This is why it is essential to keep all software and systems updated, and ensure that you download the latest patches to prevent problems caused by keyloggers and other malicious software attacks.

Rootkits

These types of malicious software are known to allow remote access to the infected device. Once the rootkit makes its way into your system, hackers will be able to access and control your system without being noticed.

Rootkits are also known to be particularly difficult to detect. This is primarily due to the fact that rootkits start working before the operating system is even booted completely, which means that you might not notice any sudden lags or inconsistencies.

Symptoms of Malware Infections

After reading the afore-mentioned types of malicious software attacks, we know that you’re probably a tad bit more concerned about the safety of your device and personal data than you were before. That’s exactly why we’re letting you in on some of the symptoms of malware infections.

Here are some telltale signs that can help you understand if you have been attacked by malware:

  • Slowed down computers, internet connections, and programs
  • Programs crash more frequently
  • Decreased disk space
  • Automatic execution of programs
  • Antivirus software stops working
  • Incessant popups
  • Email messages – mostly with links – are automatically being sent to your contact list

If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, it is recommended that you conduct a thorough search to check if you have been attacked by malicious software.

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