Malware is short for “malicious software” and refers to any software program that is designed to harm or exploit a computer or device. And unfortunately, malware is all over the internet, with 560,000 new pieces of malicious software detected every day. It can come from many potential sources, including:
Attachments in emails (the most common malware delivery method)
Infected physical devices
It’s vital for organizations to understand the risks malware poses and take effective measures to stop potential threats. This article covers the most common malware types and provides actionable steps to detect and remove them.
How does malware work?
Malware is like any other software installed on your computer, except it runs malicious code. So, for malware to work, it first needs to get installed on your computer. This can happen in several ways, such as clicking a link, downloading a malicious attachment, or visiting an infected website.
Once the malware is installed on the device, it will execute the malicious tasks it was designed to perform. Depending on the type of malware, it might encrypt your files, spy on your activity, steal your data, install additional malware, etc.
What devices can get malware?
All devices, including air-gapped devices, can get infected with malware, no matter whether you’re on mobile, desktop, or tablet. With that said, computer malware is by far the most popular and a number one target for threat actors. This makes sense, considering how many organizations rely on computers for almost every task, making them an attractive target for hackers due to the valuable data they contain.
As the reliance on digital technologies increases, even more devices will become prone to malware attacks. For example, smart TVs or cameras can be used for spying.
Why is malware one of the biggest threats organizations face?
Malware is one of the biggest threats to organizations because it can cause significant damage to a company’s operations, reputation, and bottom line. Some of the ways that malware can harm an organization include:
Disrupting business operations
Malware can disrupt business operations by infecting and damaging critical systems and data, leading to lost productivity and revenue.
Stealing sensitive information
Malware can be used to steal sensitive information such as intellectual property, customer data, and financial information, leading to financial losses and reputational damage.
Damaging business reputation
An organization that falls victim to a malware attack can suffer serious reputational damage, as customers and stakeholders may lose trust in the company’s ability to protect their information and assets.
Incurring financial losses
Malware attacks can result in significant financial losses for organizations, including the cost of repairing damage, paying ransoms, and legal and regulatory fines.
Creating legal and regulatory risks
Organizations that suffer a malware attack may also face legal and regulatory risks, including possibly being sued by customers or facing regulatory fines and penalties.
Given the significant risks that malware poses to organizations, it is important for companies to have strong cybersecurity measures in place and to regularly update and maintain their systems to protect against malware attacks.
What is the difference between malware and a virus?
A virus is a term often used to describe malware, but the two bear some notable differences.
Malware is a broad term that includes every type of malicious software, regardless of how it works or how it’s distributed.
Meanwhile, a virus is a specific malware type designed to infect files on a system and do damage.
What are the most common types of malware?
Apart from viruses, there are several other common malware types organizations should look out for, including:
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s data and holds it for ransom. It’s one of the main threats organizations face in today’s cyber climate. A ransomware attack can disrupt or halt an organization’s operations, forcing them to resolve the matter quickly to prevent larger consequences. Many notorious cyber gangs deal strictly with ransomware.
Fileless malware is a sophisticated threat that became particularly popular in 2017. It’s malicious software that operates in the system’s memory without touching the disk, making it very difficult to trace as it doesn’t rely on files and leaves no footprint. Fileless attacks are usually undetectable by antivirus software and other traditional endpoint security solutions. They require advanced monitoring solutions for effective detection.
A Trojan is a type of malicious code or software that looks legitimate but is designed to disrupt, steal, damage, or otherwise harm your data, device, or network. Many trojans are disguised as useful productivity software, which may trick employees into installing them and put their organization at risk. Trojans are a major threat on mobile devices, as threat actors upload them to unofficial app sites, hoping to get downloads.
Spyware is malicious software that gathers information about a person or organization and sends it to the malicious actor. For example, a keylogger is a spyware that threat actors might install on a victim’s computer to compromise login credentials. NSO Group’s Pegasus is one of the most sophisticated spyware targeting Android and iOS devices. It’s capable of tracking phone calls and locations, stealing passwords, reading text messages, and more.
Malicious bots are automated machines that can infect a system, steal data, or perform other malicious activities. Denial of service botnets are particularly common among organizations. Attackers may target websites or networks with fake traffic to cause disruption and extort a payment. Similarly, spam bots may target your organization with spam emails or messages.
How to detect and remove malware
Despite rising investments in antiviruses, firewalls, endpoint security systems and other security technology, malware is still entering networks and doing damage at an increasing rate. This leaves CIOs feeling helpless, and many of them believe they are wasting money on insufficient cybersecurity.
No matter how well-hidden malware is, it usually triggers spikes in network activity. So, the most effective way to detect malware is to establish a baseline for normal network traffic and continuously monitor for anomalies. This is possible with Intrusion Detection and Prevention systems (IDS/IPS), which are necessary security technologies for every organization. Spikes in network activity should trigger notification warnings for further analysis.
Once you receive a notification, examine any assets implicated in the attack for evidence of infection. Remove the ransomware and isolate the assets to prevent lateral movement.
Continue monitoring all incoming and outgoing traffic for suspicious behaviour using IDS solutions such as Snort or Web Application Firewalls (WAFs). Block any suspicious traffic, and add associated IP addresses to a deny list.
How SecurityScorecard can help you prevent malware attacks
SecurityScorecard has several services that can arm your organization in the fight against malware:
Do you think your organization has suffered a malware attack? Our emergency incident response team has invaluable experience working on many high-profile cases. Please complete this form or call us directly if you are seeing signs of a breach or suspect an incident: (212) 222-7061
Network forensics services
Detecting malicious network traffic in intrusion detection systems and live network streams is very dependent on communication protocols. It involves decoding and extracting meaningful artifacts, metadata, and data. Network protocol forensics and process automation is done with MantOS, an operating system developed by SecurityScorecard, which provides a comprehensive collection of proprietary and public domain tools.
Active security services
The key to any security program is understanding how your organization fares against skilled adversaries. By partnering with SecurityScorecard’s Active Security Services, we can help your organization identify any gaps in your attack surface defense, taking the power of knowledge out of the hands of your attackers and putting it back where it belongs – in your control.
Contact us to learn more about how our security experts can help mature and enhance your cybersecurity program.
Q: What is a malware attack?
A: A malware attack is a cyber incident where the victim’s device becomes infected with malware, putting the victim’s data at risk.
Q: What is the most common malware vector?
A: The most common malware attack vector is malicious emails, in particular phishing emails, which account for 80% of all malware infections.
Q: What causes malware?
A: Malware usually gets into a device by the user clicking a malicious link or downloading an infected file, or visiting a scammy website.
Q: How do I get rid of malware?
A: Run a full scan of your computer with antivirus software. The antivirus will detect most malicious files and give you the option to delete them.