Beyond vulnerability scanning: Enhancing attack surface management for more proactive security

December 8, 2022

Understanding and Avoiding Malware Threat

By: Randori Blog

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Malware threat is a reality that all network users will have to face at some point, both privately and industry-wide. Understanding the most common malware software types and how to avoid them is imperative to keeping digital assets safe.

What is Malware?

Malware is an ambiguous term for any software created to harm, infiltrate, disable or steal from an existing network. Since the name “malware” refers to a vast network of malicious software, it’s challenging to define malware without becoming extremely technical. The goal of malware is to cause harm. Protecting networks from malware threat software is a multi-billion dollar, global industry that strives to create the best strategies to protect against cyber threat actors. 

Common Types of Malware Threat

There are eight types of malware threat software that cyber threat terrorists most commonly use against private users, governments, and private organizations:

1. Virus

Virus malware threat software is the most recognized type of software by the public, despite making up less than 10% of all malware threat actions. A virus changes the host files to operate. When an infected host file is activated, it also triggers the virus files. The virus form of malware threat software is also unique in that it is designed to grow organically. The infected files interact with even more ‘healthy’ files until all host files are affected. The virus will continue to do so until all the host files are infected or the infected host files are deleted. Virus malware threat is some of the most difficult to rectify but also, luckily, one of the most challenging malware software to effectively implement due to its large size. 

2. Worm

Worm malware threat software is another insidious attack that is extremely difficult to clean up. Worms self-replicate, similar to viruses but, but don’t need the host files to be activated to spread. Worms will spread silently through networks and all connected devices without end-user interaction. It’s one of the most challenging malware threats to detect and works exceptionally quickly. For example, an employee might accidentally open an email with a worm and introduce it to an inadequately protected network. Within minutes, the worm can spread to the entire organization’s network, infrastructure, and customers. 

3. Ransomware

Ransomware is another malware threat software that almost always requires end-user interaction to spread. However, once the person takes the bait and activates the software, ransomware spreads rapidly through networks and encrypts the host files. The cyber threat actors demand a ransom and then send the encrypted files back to their original owners. Often, ransomware is sent via a Trojan malware threat software. 

4. Trojan

If you know the story of the Trojan Horse, you have a pretty good idea of how the Trojan malware threat works. Trojan malware hides harmful software in a seemingly safe package, like a pop-up ad claiming that your computer is infected. Instead, Trojans require end-users to activate the harmful software and bait them into downloading or starting harmful programs infecting the host files. As a result, Trojan software targets household users most commonly, though there have been instances of industry usage. 

5. File-less Malware

Typically, malware threat software has to be attached to digital files; however, file-less malware spreads and incapacitates using an operating system’s memory data. Using memory data makes file-less malware very difficult to detect through traditional cybersecurity methods. 

6. Adware

Adware focuses on inundating network users with unauthorized advertisements. Sometimes considered a less insidious form of malware threat, adware is nevertheless violating, legal and harmful to both networks and infrastructure. The adware spreads throughout networks or devices, clogging down the system and making it extremely slow—other potential threats associated with adware cause it to be underestimated. Additionally, adware software creates potential holes in network security systems to allow more insidious malware into the network. 

7. Spyware

As the name indicates, spyware is designed to function in the background, undetected by users and cybersecurity networks, and collect personal information through methods like key-logging and screen capturing. Spyware is easy to remove but difficult to detect after being embedded in the host files. 

8. The Hybrid Attack

Some of the most destructive cyberattacks occur when cyberterrorists combine two or more types of malware software to target networks from multiple fronts. Hybrid attacks are often custom designed to infiltrate cybersecurity networks where an organization is most vulnerable. This type of malware attack is planned and involves cyber-threat actors intentionally attacking a corporation or organization in real time. 

How To Avoid Malware Threat?

There are several ways to try to avoid malware infection, but the best protection is to utilize every preventive measure you can. 

  • Always Update

Never skip updates, whether it’s a personal device, network settings, or office infrastructure. Out-of-date operating systems, browsers, and plugins are critical to keep updated as they are the most commonly exploited avenues for malware. Every update implements the newest security files and codes. More importantly, patches fix holes in the security of a network through system updates. One of the best ways to keep malware threat software damage low is by preventing it from accessing your system in the first place. 

  • Use Password Best Practices

Anytime login credentials are used, industry best practices should be required. Passwords must be over eight characters, including at least one special character, number, capital, and lowercase letter. Passwords should also be updated often and never reused. A two-factor verification process should be used whenever possible, with the most delicate information protected by authentication keys. 

  • Use Education to Avoid End-User Mistakes

Since many types of malware threat software depend on end-user interaction to initiate many forms of malware, it is imperative to educate employees and customers alike. Malware threat software is less dangerous when people know what to look for in emails, ads, and applications.  

  • Use Antivirus Programs

There are so many antivirus software programs on the market that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. However, the best program varies based on operating systems, device brands, and networks. 

Malware Threat Infection; When not if…

The odds are that all systems will experience malware infection at some point, no matter how many protections are in place. However, detecting and removing malware is standard practice, even at the corporate IT and cybersecurity levels. Randori is a leader in the external cybersecurity industry and offers a new, more thorough approach to attack surface management. To find out where you’re vulnerable to malware threats, click HERE.

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