Malware: What Is It And How You Can Defend Against It

By Samantha Woollard (Internet Security Specialist) 26 December 2016

Malware, short for ‘malicious software’, are programs that are designed to cause damage to a computer. There are various types of malware which are discussed below. Over many years it has caused chaos for all kinds of organisations, large and small, infecting computers, devices and mobiles. However, in the last year there has been a significant rise in the number of attacks, mainly due to ransomware. The infected programs can result in encrypting, stealing and deleting user’s files, hijacking the computer’s functions and a whole list of other things without the user’s permission.

Types of malware:

Virus – Infectious code that poisons other software on hosts and networks. It attaches to programs and when those infected programs are ran, the virus executes the code and begins to spread. Viruses are used to steal data, money and deal damage to computers and networks.

Worm – Worms use operating system vulnerabilities to spread throughout the computer system. They can independently replicate and spread without needing any human activity, such as opening a program. Worms continue to ‘eat’ through your files until everything is destroyed and the drive is empty.

Trojan (Horse) – An infected file that disguises itself as a program or a normal (uninfected) file to trick the user into downloading it. When downloaded, the file allows the attacker to have remote access to your computer. With this access many malicious attacks can be performed such as stealing data, modifying files and installing more malware.

Ransomware – Normally spread from downloading an attachment from a file. The ransomware takes the user’s files hostage, by encrypting them and restricting the user’s access on the computer. After all the files are encrypted, an alert message will be displayed saying that the user must pay a ransom for the decryption key. If the ransom is not provided, the files will be deleted.

Adware – Displays advertisements automatically, such as pop-ups. Most adware is not dangerous and is specifically for generating revenue. Often adware will be bundled together with other malware such as spyware, which can then make it more threatening.

Spyware – Spies on your activity and tracks your internet history, often to help adware send relevant advertisements to your machine. Spyware can also change security settings to impede network connections

Defending against malware – Antivirus & Anti-Malware

Viruses have been around for many years, which is why anti-virus was created to detect and stop them. Companies have had to evolve anti-virus to detect other threats, not just viruses. So why is it still called anti-virus? As a lot of people are familiar with what viruses are, many may not know what malware is. Therefore keeping the name was more of a strategy in the marketing department.

The main difference between anti-virus and anti-malware is what they are trying to find. Anti-virus deals with finding older types of threats, such as viruses, trojans, worms etc. Anti- malware is more ‘hip’, where it can detect recent malware threats, rather than older threats. It could take months until the anti-virus is updated to include recent threats in its search, resulting in those vulnerabilities existing in your system and ready to be attacked.

Which one should I use?
Both. To get great results, both are needed for different threats; running another malware scanner can only be beneficial. Anti-virus should be run frequently and anti-malware should be when a computer system has changed or seems to be running slower than usual.  By running a second program to your systems, there is a 19.2% potential increase on finding extra malware. Although, do not try and run them at the same time as this will slow your systems down.

Relax. Your Security is Intact.

Author: Intact Security

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Posted on by Martin Quinn in Security Blog