What is a malware attack? Malicious software or malware is software written with the intent to exploit, damage, or disable devices, systems, and networks. It is used by attackers to compromise steal confidential data, device functions, bypass access controls, and cause harm to computers and other devices and the networks they are connected to.
With malware usage continuing to rise especially during the pandemic, it is important to be well versed with the common malware types, how they affect your system, and what you can do to protect your network and critical data.
Types of Malware
There are different types of malware attacks initiated by hackers when they notice a security loophole in your computer. These malware attacks are designed to corrupt, destroy, and even restrict user access until the demands of the attacker are not met. Here are the common types of malware attacks:
Viruses are designed to damage the target computer or device by corrupting data, reformatting your hard disk, or completely shutting down your system. They can also be used to steal information, harm computers and networks, create botnets, steal money, render advertisements, and more.
Computer viruses require human action to infect computers and mobile devices and are often spread through email attachments and internet downloads.
A Trojan horse, or “Trojan”, enters your system disguised as a normal, harmless file or program designed to trick you into downloading and installing malware. As soon as you install a Trojan, criminals get a free pass to access your system behind your back. Attackers use it to steal data, install more malware, modify files, monitor user activity, destroy data, steal financial information, conduct denial of service (DoS) attacks on targeted web addresses, and more. when Trojan malware is installed along with worms, it can cause severe damage to the system and often cause hefty damage on the pocket of the users.
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Spyware is installed by hackers without our knowledge and are designed to track your browsing habits and internet activity. It exploits software vulnerabilities and involves activity monitoring, collecting keystrokes, and harvesting of account information, logins, financial data, and more.
This one is one of the most common types of malware used by attackers to infect the system by exploiting operating system vulnerabilities. A worm is a standalone program that replicates itself to infect other computers, without requiring action from anyone. They take literally no time to spread and are often used to initiate a payload—a code designed to damage a system. Payloads can delete files on a host system, encrypt data for a ransomware attack, steal information, delete files, and create botnets.
Adware, or advertising-supported software, is software that shows unwanted advertisements on your computer. Adware programs are seen as pop-up ads, can change your browser’s homepage, add spyware, and just bombard your system with advertisements. Because of browser vulnerability, the malicious adware can collect data on you, redirect you to advertising sites, and change your internet browser settings, your default browser and search settings, and your homepage.
In this type of malware attack, the attackers hold your confidential data captive and then demand payment to release the data without any distortion. The hacker restricts a user’s access to the computer by either encrypting files on the hard drive or by locking down the system and displaying messages that state that the users need to pay the attacker the desired amount to regain access to the system.
How to protect your system from malware attacks
To secure against malware attacks:
- Keep all of your devices, operating systems, plugins, and browsers up to date.
- Limit account access to only those who need it to do their jobs.
- Always have strong, unique passwords. Do not opt for traditional passwords as these are easy to crack. Instead, create a password that includes a combination of numerical and special characters.
- It is best not to click on links or download attachments coming from un-trusted unknown sources.
- Avoid using public connections that are not encrypted and always layer your security starting with basic measures like firewall and antivirus.
- Use anti-virus and anti-malware tools on the endpoint device.
- Setting email filters are a great way to help prevent emails containing malicious attachments and links from reaching your inbox.
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