There has recently been an uptick in cybercrime committed via malware. Malware, short for “malicious software,” is software that is purposefully designed to do some kind of harm. It could be to collect files from a computer, to log keystrokes and identify passwords, to transfer control over a device from one person to another, and a lot more! Some types of malware are more common than others, so here is a list of four common kinds of malware to watch out for.
If you’re a business and you’ve been made aware of a security breach, be on the lookout for ransomware. Ransomware is a specific variety of malware that will generally lock up computer systems or encrypt data. To free the system or unencrypt the data, the owner must pay a ransom to the perpetrator. It is most common for a business to be the victim of a ransomware attack; however, it is not impossible for individuals to fall victim as well. In general, be on the lookout for suspicious email attachments, don’t click any suspicious links, and don’t download any unofficial software.
A trojan horse is a particularly powerful piece of malware that pretends to be part of a legitimate program or piece of software. By hiding within a program’s files, the trojan horse can be relatively large. This allows it to be packed full of tools designed to steal your sensitive data, monitor your computer’s activity, or even install new malware without your knowledge. To protect against trojan horses, don’t download any illegal software. Be sure you trust the developers when downloading free-to-use software. Lastly, regularly scan your program files using an anti-malware tool. Following these general rules will go a long way toward protecting you and your computer from trojan horses.
Rootkits are a nasty kind of malware that allows a bad actor to gain complete control of your system. This is dangerous because, in addition to having full access to your data, a hacker can configure your computer to do whatever they want. It can be configured to spread more malware to your friends, it can be used as a bot to attack other computer systems, it can be used to mine cryptocurrency and send it to the hacker, or any other number of unwanted actions. With control of your system, a hacker can easily place more rootkits everywhere so that if one is found, more exist to retain control. Rootkits can be difficult to detect for anti-malware and are very difficult to remove one they’re there. Rootkits hitch rides on all kinds of software, so again, be careful with what you download. Make sure you trust the developers and scan your system regularly.
A worm is a piece of malware that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers, networks, and devices. The interesting thing about worms is that they are usually self-contained, meaning that they do not need a program to hide, activate, or run. When a worm starts running, it begins to replicate and spread copies of itself around the computer and the network. Once it is replicated, it begins to do whatever it was designed to do, be it deleting files, transmitting data, or some other specific purpose. Because worms don’t need any human input, a worm is a powerful threat against devices like servers or databases that don’t regularly see direct human interaction. To protect against worms, don’t download any random software and don’t click suspicious links. If you think you have a worm, run an anti-malware scan. You can also pay attention to the storage space on your computer; since worms replicate themselves, they can take up a large amount of space on a hard drive.
There are many types of malware that can be designed for everything from data theft to unauthorized remote access. Study the different kinds of malware to be able to identify them in the real world and follow proper digital hygiene practices to keep yourself safe from these looming threats.