Updated: Feb 18
Malware and computer viruses are one of the most feared opponents of today’s business operations. Malware attacks have grown in frequency and complexity over the years. An attack that occurred once every 40 seconds in 2016 occurred every 14 seconds in 2019 and become as frequent as 11 seconds by 2021. These cyber-attacks cause significant damages and often leave no trace of origination. For example, in 2018, the Local Government of Arizona incurred a loss of over $5 million to rebuild their infrastructure following a SamSam ransomware attack. The first step towards building a secure operating environment is to gain an understanding of the opponent. Furthermore, investing in an expert cyber-security system and creating awareness among employees are some proactive methods that will help protect your business from potential threats.
What is Malware?
Malware, a word stitched for malicious software, are codes developed by cyber hackers to gain unauthorized access to a network or cause damage to computer and other mobile devices, by exploiting security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, these infected programs are capable of hijacking system operations, lowering computer performance, extracting personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive information and deleting or encrypting data.
Here is a list of the most common malware and viruses and ways in which they infect enterprise devices.
As the name implies, ransomware encrypts a victim’s files and demands a ransom, most commonly payable in Bitcoin, to release the decryption key. These types of malware masquerades as law enforcement agencies to maliciously create a sense of urgency and privacy in the victim. Statistics suggest that ransomware attacks generate phenomenal $25 million in revenue for hackers each year.
Once infected, worms are capable of modifying, deleting, stealing and creating a back door to enterprise files and critical data by which a hacker is able to gain malicious access to the organization’s computer operating system. Some worms duplicate itself and exhaust the hard drive and erode bandwidth.
Unlike other malware, computer viruses do not pray on data. Instead, they replicate themselves, altering other programs according to its own code in a specific area like a virus when executed.
Adware appears mostly as advertisement popups, where once clicked on, will gain access to information such as location or browser history. Most commonly, these programs gain user’s unintentional consent and therefore may not fall under malware.
On the contrary, Spyware does not ask for consent, but will gain unauthorized access to browser history, location data and keystrokes (making weak passwords easily identifiable) and may trade this information with third parties through similar methods as adware. Spyware can interfere in the network connection by altering security systems.
Though these programs are not mainly classified under malware, they negatively affect a system’s performance. In fact, they are software errors. A standard indicator of bugs is constant software crashing and freezing.
Rootkits and Torjan Horses
Both of malware may give access to and control of the computer system to a hacker. Rootkits can go unnoticed and may require an expert, real-time monitoring system to detect.
How do Malware and Viruses Infect and Spread?
Descriptions of common malware make the intentions of the hacker evident. Whether authorized or otherwise, hackers design malware to gain access to computer systems, files and critical business data for the purpose of exploiting and personal gain. Most malware requires the user’s unintentional consent to gain access and therefor disguise themselves as advertisements, urgent emails or lucrative opportunities
Email attachments, internet file downloads and social media scam links are few methods by which cyber-attacks are infected and spread through the web. In respect to email attachments, many assume that emails from known senders are safe to open and download. But a risk of contacts being manipulated by malware may persist.
Furthermore, for many, personal data, photos shared on social media and other files may seem insignificant to a hacker. But there are risks where this type of information could be extracted to spearhead high intelligent cybercrimes in high profile organizations.
Other ways by which malware and computer viruses spread is by connecting to infected devices such as external hard drives and network devices and leaving operating systems accessible and vulnerable for infection.
Is Your Computer Safe?
One of the easiest ways to spot infection is noticing a drop in system performance. We usually update patches and virus guards as soon as a discrepancy surfaces, however, malware may be detected after its purpose has been served. For instance, ransomware may surface once all your important files are already encrypted.
Therefore, a business needs to have in place a robust cybersecurity plan coupled with having the network monitored round the clock. Here at CSG Technologies, we ensure threats are caught before they catch you! Contact our IT professionals today.