Technology is a great resource for people in both their personal and professional lives. That being said, technology and the internet have also put people at risk of being targeted by many online dangers, as well as having their sensitive data exposed. Hackers, scammers, online predators, identity thieves, and catfishers are just some of those dangers. One of the tools these online criminals use to target their victims and gain access to their devices or sensitive information is malware.
What Is Malware?
Malware is malicious programs or software used with the intent of harming or gaining unauthorized access to exploited devices and networks. Malware infections replicate and spread to devices connected to a network. They may seek to crash systems and steal private information from any connected devices. It is often initially delivered to computers and networks in the form of fake apps, links, emails and attachments, texts, and more. To convince people to accidentally infect their computers or other devices, the criminal behind the attack may use social engineering to manipulate their targets.
Different Types Of Malware To Watch Out For
Adware is unsolicited advertisements delivered to online users that try to entice people to click on the ad or download specific software or app. The websites or software/apps being offered often contain other forms of malware such as cell phone spyware.
Ransomware attacks seek to take a device and its files captive in exchange for a ransom. The device’s data and files are encrypted by the attacker so the victim has to pay the ransom in order to regain access to the device.
Rootkits are malicious software that remotely accesses and controls a device without the owner knowing. Once connected, a rootkit can complete a number of tasks including:
- Steal device data and files
- Modify device security protocols and settings
- Install other malware types to the device
- Control the infected device
Spyware is a common type of malware that spies on user activities on the infected device. Spyware usually infiltrates a device by being included in software or apps, Trojans, and exploiting vulnerabilities. This malware is known to monitor device keystrokes, retrieve device data and files, alter device security settings, and view all device activities.
There are various ways viruses can spread among devices. First, viruses can attach themselves to software or app code that infects the device once opened. Viruses can also spread through documents, script files, and device vulnerabilities. The main goal most viruses have is to cause damage to all systems, networks, and devices it comes across.
Trojans (often referred to as Trojan Horse) are disguised as legitimate apps, files, or software that is suggested online for users to download. Once downloaded, the criminal party can access a device’s sensitive data, modify files, monitor the device, install other malware, and more.
Bots are programs designed to execute a specific action that is not always harmful. For example, bots are used in video games and used to crawl websites. However, they can also be used for malicious purposes such as:
- Botnets: This enables a third party to control a collection of devices.
- DDoS Attacks: Bots can be used to execute this type of attack which disrupts and blocks normal traffic to a server, network, or site.
- Spambots: Sends malicious code, Trojans, and links.
- Parsing Bots: Steals sensitive information and data from a specific website.
Worms wiggle their way spreading themselves and self-duplicating by exploiting device, network, or server vulnerabilities. This type of malware attack also relies on the human factor of downloading and opening specific files, apps, software, or clicking on specific links. Worms are commonly used when someone wants to infect the devices on an entire system.
Bugs are flaws or vulnerabilities that are in programs, operating systems, and devices, often the result of human error. Unless regularly checked for, bugs are often not found until it’s too late. They can cause systems and devices to malfunction and enable third parties to access them unauthorized and possibly undetected.
The Effects of Malware
Infected Devices, Networks, & Accounts
Obviously, the immediate effect of malware is that your devices, networks, or employee and customer accounts are infected with malware. What actions will occur will depend on the type of malware used. Devices that are infected could be accessed, controlled, or damaged by a malicious party.
Data Leaks & Theft
The most common reason malware is used is to access, view, and steal data and personal information from devices and networks. Personal information may include full name, date of birth, email address, social security number, credit card, and other identifying information. This data could be sold to third parties, held as ransom, leaked to expose the business, used to commit identity theft, and more.
Identity Theft & Fraud
Stolen data obtained by criminals can be used to commit identity theft and fraud. By assuming a person’s identity, one could steal the victim’s finances, and obtain credit cards, loans, and insurance in their name. These actions may result in the victim’s credit score tanking and not being able to apply for their own loan, credit card, or insurance plan.
Loss Of Finances
Having someone’s personal information allows cybercriminals to easily steal their finances. If their bank account is compromised, the criminal will have direct access to their bank funds. With this bank information, along with PPI, social security number, and credit card numbers, the victim’s finances can be easily drawn and new credit cards could be opened in their name.
Most companies today promise that their customer’s or clients’ data and information is secure with them. If a company’s systems are compromised and its customers find out, their reputation is immediately tarnished. How can their current or potential customers trust them any longer?
The effects of malware will always depend on the type of malware that is used. As a technology user, take action to protect your network or devices such as updating your operating system, installing anti-malware or antivirus software, and being careful what apps and programs you download.