Categories of Malware Assaults and How They Work
Malware refers to numerous cyberattacks and is a portmanteau of “malicious software.” These cyberattacks exploit devices and computer systems to steal data and credentials, spy on users, and damage files. Common malware types include viruses, Trojans, worms, rootkits, and adware. The following categories of malware assaults will be covered in this article:
While the objectives of malware are limited only to the imagination of its creator, stealing information, credentials and payment data is a common theme. Ransomware is a particularly damaging form of cyberattack. Viruses typically spread by infecting other computer programs with their code. The viruses replicate by overwriting the code in files and forcing those files to be imported and run. Once enough viruses are created, they break free of their capsids and infect other systems or “hosts.” Viruses can be installed through phishing attacks, social engineering and exploitable vulnerabilities. They can also be transmitted by clicking on a malicious ad (malvertising) or via drive-by downloads when visiting websites that serve these ads. It is why layered defense strategies are important.
A collection of hacked devices hackers use for evil purposes is known as a botnet. Attackers can deploy these networks for various purposes, including launching cyber attacks and mining cryptocurrency. Hackers can use these examples of malware attacks to infect computers with botnet malware, such as luring users into making drive-by downloads and exploiting software and website vulnerabilities. Once hackers install modules on the infected devices, they can remotely command and control them. Instead of depending solely on pre-existing profiles, cybersecurity experts can identify malware based on its behavior. They can stop zero-day attacks in the same way. Bots are often used to conduct brute force attacks, which leverage rapid, repetitive password-guessing technology to breach web accounts and steal data. They also can be programmed to perform distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that flood a service with web traffic to crash it. A computer infected with botnet malware can lay dormant for months or even years before launching a nefarious attack. It is why many Internet Service Providers are now sending out notifications to their customers when they detect botnet activity on their networks.
Trojan infections are among the most common forms of malware. They are hidden in seemingly harmless files and programs downloaded from the Internet. Like the Trojan horse from Homer’s Iliad, these digital Trojan horses carry code that can steal confidential or sensitive information from a computer system or mobile device. They can also stifle network performance by using resources and creating a bottleneck. Some examples of Trojans include fake anti-virus software programs that display a pop-up and claim to find issues on the user’s computer, which the program then asks the user to pay a fee to fix. Other Trojans spy on a user by logging keyboard actions, taking screenshots or accessing applications, and transmitting passwords back to the hacker. They can infect multiple devices, turning them into enslaved people (or “zombies”) in a botnet that can conduct a distributed denial-of-service attack. Other Trojans, such as the banking Trojan or the Trojan GameThief, are designed to steal data from online financial accounts.
One of the most powerful malware types, rootkits, gives hackers access to a computer that traditional anti-malware software may not detect. It can allow perpetrators to conduct various malicious activities, including information theft, file deletion, eavesdropping, and remote access. These malicious programs also can be used to conduct large-scale attacks, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks and ransomware. They can also encrypt files on a computer, which makes them unusable until the victim pays a fee to the hacker. Hardware or firmware rootkits attack the software that controls hardware components such as hard drives, routers and system BIOS, installing malware that is difficult to detect by anti-virus programs.
Infostealers are like viruses in that they infect your computer and steal information. But unlike viruses, they don’t encrypt files or cause noticeable symptoms that will alert you to their presence. They steal snippets of data you give them via web browser cookies and then send them to the cybercriminals. It can include your login credentials, PII and even cryptocurrency wallet information. When they have enough information, they can conduct malicious activities such as impersonating you on social media to make bogus requests for money or using your device to log into bank apps so they can transfer funds from your account without your knowledge. As a result, info stealers are gaining popularity among cyber threat actors as a means to conduct attacks. They can hide malicious software by impersonating legitimate programs such as anti-virus software or the real installer for remote desktop applications.
Adware can be a nuisance, displaying endless ads or downloading plugins and apps you have yet to ask for. It can also invade your privacy by tracking your internet activity and reporting it to the adware authors for sale to third parties. Some adware is malware itself, such as spyware, worms and ransomware. These types of malware often exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems, software or websites to gain entry and spread quickly. To prevent adware, don’t open executable files from unknown senders or click on links in phishing emails. It’s also good to update operating systems regularly and avoid websites that use outdated browser vulnerabilities for drive-by downloads.