What is Malware? Things You Need To Know

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You have been hearing about the latest attacks on well-known companies and how their data was hacked. The terms “malware” and “ransomware” are often thrown around, but what is malware and ransomware? Are they the same thing? Are they completely different? These are the things you need to know.

Malware is the umbrella term for a malicious software that penetrates a system and causes tons of damage. This can come in a variety of forms; from Viruses to Trojan to Ransomware. The extent of the damage is not the same between the different types of malware, or there may no damage! Either way, it is important to understand the variety of malware so you can have a plan to protect yourself.

Common Types of Malware

Viruses: These are the traditional and most-known type of malware that is found on computers. A virus itself is contracted through an infected file, and replicates itself and quickly attaches to executable codes. When the infected file was opened, the virus would launch and begin its destruction on the computer.

Trojan: Probably second of the most well-known type of malware, the Trojan [horse] is one that is downloaded due to the perceived ability (or actual ability) to provide a benefit, but has the addition of a virus attached. It modifies the system to allow the hacker to enter and take control of the system.

Logic Bomb: This virus is deliberately installed by an authorized user, unlike other malware where the software is unintentionally installed. It is installed and set to “detonate” after a certain action or time period has passed, and deletes specified key files.

Ransomware: Ransomware hacks into a system and encrypts it so the user cannot gain access to their data. The encryption requires a keycode to gain access, which the perpetrator will give IF the user pays a ransom fee. Access to the data is restored once the fee is paid. As of 2018, ransomware has cost roughly $45 billion for companies and governments to have access to their data again. This is increasingly worrisome as there is no guarantee that the data was not copied by the hackers and used for their own benefit. Even if the ransom is paid, the hackers could still eliminate the data.

Worm: This is an increasingly common form of malware these days. A worm doesn’t need to be downloaded or clicked on like other malware, but can come through an unsecured network and infect a system or network. The key difference between a worm virus and a traditional virus is that the worm virus does not need to attach itself to code and can quickly replicate itself.

Adware: This may confuse some people, but adware is not necessarily bad. In fact, most adware installed is due to using a free software in exchange for the knowledge of ads appearing on their screen. The ads disappear once the user pays for the premium software. The issue with malicious adware is when the software is perceived to provide a benefit, then bombards the user’s computer with pop-up ads. Sometimes, enough ads occur that the computer is overloaded and shuts down.

Spyware: This software “spies” on you by tracking where you go and the information you enter without the user’s knowledge. Typically designed to steal information, it can also be used to redirect the user to a different webpage and slowing down the network connection.

Have you ever been affected by malware? What measures have you put in place to protect yourself from malware? To learn more about malware and how to protect your system, contact us here.