Malware (malicious software) denotes a collection of various programs that can harm the computer. The term can denote computer virus, Trojan horse, worms, or spyware, among others. The harm can range from forced advertising (adware) or asking ransom (ransomware) or stealing information (spyware). They can also monitor the user without their permission.
It is the intent of the programmer that differentiates a malicious programme from a normal one. For example, back in 2005, Sony installed a rootkit on the CDs without the knowledge of the users with the right intent of preventing illegal copying. But the software reported back the users listening behaviour too.
How does Malware spread?
Malware can spread through a variety of methods which are as follows.
- Drive-by download: The program is installed on the computer without the user’s knowledge.
- Phishing attacks: The emails are the carriers of the malware.
- Command and control servers: The servers allow the communication between the attacker and the infected computer. These servers can also be used to carry out the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
- Obfuscation: This involves hiding the malware behind the programming code. Obfuscation makes it difficult for the users or security engineers to detect the malware.
- Malicious ads: The ads contain malware which can download on the system even without the click.
Also read: Is Windows Defender good enough for your PC?
Types of malware
Common examples of malware include:
A virus replicates itself on the host computer, thereby corrupting the data. It inserts malicious codes in the programs and makes the program unworkable. They can cause frequent crashes, slowing down of the computer, along with password changes and frequent pop-up windows on the computer.
Based on the Greek legend, this malware disguises itself in the form of a harmless-looking software. The attackers use social engineering to trick the user into downloading the file. Once activated, it can perform various nefarious functions such as deleting, copying and modifying data along with hampering the device’s performance.
A worm is a malware that duplicates itself and spreads to other uninfected computers. A worm usually relies on those programs of the OS that are automatic and can work without human interaction. We all remember the Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010. Stuxnet was the first cyber weapon known to the world and demonstrated the power of computer malware. A worm can eat away the storage of the computer in addition to the slowing of computer speed. It can also delete or replace files.
Spyware can gather data without the knowledge of the user and can transfer the information to any third party. Furthermore, they can monitor the internet activity of the user and can track the passwords or login information.
Adware tracks the user’s browsing activity and displays various advertising materials. Pop up windows open within the browser while the user is working and displays the ads. Along with displaying advertisements, they can also act as spyware.
How to protect your device?
- Keeping the system updated: Updating your system lowers the risk of malware infection by covering the existing security loopholes.
- Not clicking on unknown links: Links are the simplest way a malware gain access to the system. They can be attached to the emails, or are present on the websites. Links from unknown websites must be avoided.
- Unknown apps and malicious sources: Apps can contain hidden malware. Users must download apps from trusted websites and only apps that are popular or have been reviewed thoroughly.
- Installing anti-virus software: Antivirus software is the easiest way to protect one’s device. Some of the notable antivirus software are Norton, Avast, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, Mcafee, among others.
- Backing up the files: Data backup is necessary specifically in case of a ransomware attack. At any rate, the user must develop a habit of frequent data backup. In addition to protecting from malware, data backup can be useful in case the hard disk crashes or any other hardware mishap.
Featured image by Richard Patterson | Flickr
Former Senior Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant has a keen interest in social issues and international relations.