Malware is defined as any software, application, or program designed to attack one or more technology devices. There are many types of programs that are categorized under Malware, such as computer virus, computer worm, trojan, ransomware, spyware, and many more. The harm caused by malware can range anywhere from a minor decrease in performance to critical data breach or distortion.
Malware is short for "Malicious Software" and as the name indicates any software, applications, programs, or scripts that are created to bring harm to a device can be called Malware. Because of its abstract concept, the term is frequently used to specify a variety of computer attacks, including computer virus, computer worm, trojan, spyware, ransomware, scareware, bots, rootkits, exploit kits, logic bomb, malvertising, and more.
The intensions behind hackers' creating malware can spread to many reasons, side income through advertisement clicks, internet activity stocking, social identity thief, online account access, and organization/governmental sensitive data breaches.
History of Malware
While the term Malware became popular in more recent years, the existence of malware starts nearly the same era when the computer was created.
History of malware begins at 1971 when a virus called Creeper was developed by a corporation programmer during experimentation of program perform sequence of methods to copy itself to another device through a floppy disk. The first wild malware, Elk Cloner, was found in 1982 infecting macOS through attaching itself to a game floppy disk.
The term "virus" came into place when Fred Cohen defined the concept in 1986 within his Ph.D. thesis paper. The definition of the virus was quoted as "A program that can infect other programs by modifying them to include a, possibly evolved, version of itself."
In contrast to the increasing number of malware types in early 2000, the public and business awareness against malware was still very low. As a result, the malware begins to spread significantly faster in both numbers and infection rates. One of the iconic malware impacted thousands of businesses is called ILOVEYOU, which is an email sent throughout the nation with the title 'I love you' containing a file attachment called "LOVE_LETTER_FOR_YOU.TXT.vbs", causing a total of $15 billion damage.
Malware Infection Methods
The key to protecting yourself from malware attacks is to understand how are malware designed to infection devices and what type of infection method exists.
Email Attachment - Email is the most efficient way for hackers to spread their malware to a wide and random range of targets. Enclosing a malware file into a friendly or urgent message often tricks the receiver to open the attachment and trigger the infection. What also advances the infection rate is with email hackers can send malware to millions of targets at once, even in an automated way.
Some email attacks can be prevented by simple methods. Because this type of email is often sent from non-English countries messages can contain grammar and spelling mistakes, which indicates email was sent by an unprofessional source. Asking others for a second pair of eyes will also help to identify the legitimacy of the content by introducing a non-bias perspective.
Unofficial Software - You must be extra careful when downloading unauthorized software or software from a third-party website. These kinds of software can sometimes contain malware placed by hackers to randomly spread designed malware.
For example, a key-gen application used to generate validation keys to OS or off-shelf software can be downloaded from websites. Although the application might do its job by applying working validation, a malicious spy program may also be injected at the same time to monitor any user activities.
Malicious Website - Website can be harmful in many ways. Some may display scareware popups and others may run hijack scripts behind the screen. There are also websites entirely designed to steal user information by displaying other officially known websites, such as Facebook and bank sites, to trick users sign in using their credentials. In this case, a hacking strategy called Man in the Middle may be used to send every user inputs to hacker's servers.
Infected Portable Drives - A removable device such as a hard drive or USB thumb drive can bring a virus or worm to a connected computer. This type of malware infection spreads out starting from a computer infecting an external device, and an external device further infecting other attached computers. When removing malware from your computer, it is important to make sure any connected removable devices are not contaminated. Otherwise, the infection may come back from the removable device. Make sure to perform malware removal against all devices connected.
Types of Malware
Computer Virus - The most commonly known type of malware. Attaches itself to a clean file or program and infect by manipulating part of code. The infected files can also infect other files, in the same way, causing the virus to spread rapidly. Some infected file becomes inaccessible, while others get stolen or destroyed based on the type of virus. Usually found within .EXE extension files and triggers the infection upon execution.
Computer Worm - The term 'Worm' was given according to the way infection spreads throughout the workspace. After the first device gets infected, worm malware will automatically scan for network connections and attack discovered devices. The infection rate is extremely fast and commonly spreads out to the entire network.
Trojan - Similar to an invasion strategy in the ancient Greek story, Trojan is a type of malware intended to trick victims to believe its fake legitimacy. Trojans are hidden within a commonly known file or software and infect the host system when the user executes the program.
Spyware - As the name indicates, Spyware specializes in spying users' computer or online activities by remotely monitoring infected devices display, data flow, and keystrokes. The majority of hackers who use spyware are interested in stealing account credentials associated with victims' financial access.
Ransomware - Designed to lock victims' files or device access while demanding a ransom payment in return of release. It usually targets a work environment where hackers can collect more ransom by massive infection. There is no guarantee that the lock will be removed after paying the ransom.
Scareware - Literally tries to inject malware into a system by scaring the user. Know to attempt to attack victims by displaying a warning screen indicating hundreds of viruses were detected on a user's device and recommend to install specific software for removal. The fact is, there is no infection instead the suggested software is the malware.
Bots - Type of malware lives on the internet by propagating through the online network and host servers. The feature called crawl is used to analyze and explore any internet endpoints available in an automated way. Some bots hold the ability to perform DoS attacks, open back doors, and spy on data streams. Also known as web bots, crawlers, and spiders.
Rootkits - Package of tools driven to hijack target software and devices through the "rooted" part of system foundation. Tools are initially designed by system manufacturers to support client remote assistant, which got modified by the hackers to be used in a harmful way. While Rootkits infected device shows few or no signs of damage, hackers can remotely control, monitor user activities, and steal secure information as needed.
Exploit Kits - A highly automated program developed to explore the network and discover known vulnerabilities to take advantage of. Targets are publicly accessible devices and web hosts which hackers can gain remote control. These types of programs are created by technical criminal groups and get distributed to the public, as a result, lowering the barrier of attacks from non-technical hackers.
How to Prevent Youself from Malware Infection
1. Install Antimalware Software
To implement protection against a variety of malware types, the best solution is to use antimalware software. A proper security suite antimalware will monitor and defend all possible input routes, such as browser scripts, incoming email, download files, and even USB attached devices. Protection will be applied throughout the device usage all year round.
2. Carefully Validate Emails
As email is one of the most common sources where malware comes from, it is a great practice to securely analyze incoming emails. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes to make sure the message is sent from a valid source. Do not click on any links unless they are validated with antimalware or link checkers. Never open the attached file without scanning, even from a familiar sender in case an infected virus sent the email. Ask for other people's opinions especially when message content is insisting on urgent action.
3. Avoid Unofficial or Third-party Software
Hackers know that hiding their malware inside a popular software can enhance the success rate of infection. For example, key-gen software may unlock paid software or OS validation but also inject a deeply rooted malware at the same time. A modified unlocked application can also be dangerous since no one knows who made it or where it came from. You can only trust officially created software that is provided by the authorized webpage.
4. Keep Everything Updated
New vulnerabilities are found every day by hackers and criminal groups. If your antimalware, OS, browser, or application are not updated with the latest patch, there is a higher chance for a threat attack to succeed using such known vulnerability. Turn on the auto-update feature if available, otherwise occasionally check the update status for your safety.
5. Schedule Malware Scan Periodically
A scheduled scan is an extremely useful feature that comes with much antimalware software. By frequently running the malware scan on your device there is a better chance of detecting any malicious activities and prevent further spread. Schedules are often set to run after business hours or overnight to avoid conflicting resource drain during using the computer. Worth mentioning that the computer cannot be turned off, in hibernation, standby, or sleep for the scan to run.
How to Remove Malware After Infection
Malware disease comes in a variety of flavors and to remove each and all types of comprehensive solutions are needed. Luckily we have invented a cure called antimalware software, which automatically detects and terminates known reported malware.
There are some free antimalware software available online which may not be the best solution in cases. Free antimalware usually comes as a standalone system that has much fewer features compared to the security suite version providing advanced malware prevention, auto security updates, and online protection.
If you want to fully invest in keeping your computer environment safe and protected, we recommend using the full suite system. They also include rich and useful features such as password manager, automate cloud backup, parent controls, spam email filter, website validator, and many more.