The word “malware” is a combination of the words malicious and software. The word malware is used to describe software that is designed expressly for criminal or unethical purposes. These purposes include a range of illicit behavior like stealing information, corrupting systems, locking access to essential applications or devices, and physical hardware destruction.
Since malware comes in so many different forms and is used in many ways, there are popular terms used to describe each variation. Spyware, ransomware, Trojan horses, rootkits, and viruses are some of the most popular malware types. Malware names and descriptions are typically based on how the virus functions or spreads. For example, spyware (as defined below) is a kind of malware that secretly tracks or monitors a victim’s activities.
How is Malware Used?
Malware functions just like legitimate software, only it is designed specifically to do something harmful. Early versions of malware were often created as pranks, but the criminal applications were made clear when pranks turned destructive. Malware programs use a wide variety of techniques to remain undetectable. More devious, well-designed viruses can surreptitiously infect a system and take measures to prevent operating systems or antivirus programs from detecting suspicious activity or files.
All useful malwares will start by infecting a device or system in order to gain access. How an attacker chooses to exploit that access will depend on the type of malware used. Below is a list of primary ways that malware is used, and the moniker associated with each type:
How can it hurt my business?
The damage that malware causes to businesses depends on the type of malware used in an attack. Negative impacts include:
- Proprietary data loss
- Customer data loss
- Stalled or slowed business operations
- Brand damage
- Device destruction
User computers were subjected to at least one type of malware attack
- Browser-based vulnerabilities are the largest contributor to malware attacks.
- Over 15 million new malware variants were observed online in 2017.
- Trojans remain the most commonly used type of malware.
- Windows users are still the most at risk of suffering a malware attack.
- Cyber criminals are increasingly using “fileless” techniques to initially compromise a system instead of relying on malicious .exe files for installation. Use of this strategy will likely increase throughout 2018.