What is malware? - How does malware work?

 

What is malware? How does malware work?
What is malware? How does malware work?

What is malware? - How does malware work?

To do any work on a computer, it has to be done through programming. Computers generally have two types of programs. One is system software and the other is application software.

System software ensures a proper environment for the use of computer hardware, while application software performs a specific function. We are more familiar with the software; Such as - office management software, database software, browsers, etc. When a software works, some of its parts are stored in the main memory of the computer and the rest of the other functions are performed with the help of the operating system.

Again, it is possible to write programming code that can interfere with the work of all software. Software interfaces on different hardware can crash. It can even ruin the performance of a complete computer. Since this type of programming code or program bunch is harmful to the computer, such software can be called malicious software or malicious software and the same is called malware.

What harm does malware do?

Malware is a type of software that interferes with the performance of other software. And this barrier can be for operating system software or application software, not just the barrier that causes it. Some malware steals information stored on a user's computer. Sometimes the user unknowingly gains access to his computer system. Malware can be published as programming code, script activation or other software. In other words, malware is the common name for a variety of malicious software that infiltrates a computer.

Types of malware

Malware includes computer viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, backdoors, blotware, spyware, adware, ransomware, etc. Experience has shown that the number of Trojan horses and worms in malicious software is higher than that of viruses. Although development and publication are prohibited through cyber laws in many countries of the world, numerous malwares have been created and are being perpetuated all over the world.

 How is malware spread?

Computer systems that have software security flaws have the opportunity to take action. It is possible to create malware to disable the software, even if it is not only a security flaw but also a designable one. Windows operating system has more malware than any other operating system in the world today. One of the reasons is the high number of Windows users. No one knows the inside of the operating system. If someone finds a mistake or glitch at work, they can use it to create malware. The number of malware was very low before the development of the Internet. The number of malware has been increasing ever since it became possible to spread it through the Internet.

 All the mistakes that cause the risk of malware on our smart devices

1. Neglecting software updates and system updates: Every software (Windows, Mac OS or Linux distro) has some vulnerabilities (known as bugs) that make it easy for hackers to attack your device. The developers of that software try to fix those vulnerabilities through mass security updates. Failure to update your software or system will result in error on your device.

2. Opening a file given by a stranger or found from an unknown source: You may have been given a file by a known or unknown person and you have opened it. Or you get a link to an offer from somewhere and click on it. It may be that all those files or links are created in such a way that any malware can be installed on your device.

3. Use of suspicious or cracked software: This category may include free video players, cracked versions of any commercial software, those softwares that may increase download speeds, as well as claims to increase your system's performance or other suspicious claims.

Whenever you try to download something for free from the internet, there is a possibility that your computer may be infected by malware. In addition, downloading and using DMG images from an unofficial source for a Windows ISO or Linux distribution ISO or MacOS or a custom ROM or a firmware file can cause malware to enter the system.

Many times in the service center computer software can install blotware / malware during service. Remember, nothing in the world is free. Every thing has a price. That price should not be in exchange for your privacy.

4. The same condition applies to your smartphone. You can get any pro-apk for free on any third party website. With that epic, malware or bloatware or adware can come to your phone very easily.


Malware definition

Malware, short for malicious software, is a blanket term for viruses, worms, trojans and other harmful computer programs hackers use to wreak destruction and gain access to sensitive information. As Microsoft puts it, "[malware] is a catch-all term to refer to any software designed to cause damage to a single computer, server, or computer network." In other words, software is identified as malware based on its intended use, rather than a particular technique or technology used to build it.

This means that the question of, say, what the difference is between malware and a virus misses the point a bit: a virus is a type of malware, so all viruses are malware (but not every piece of malware is a virus).

Types of malware

There are a number of different ways of categorizing malware; the first is by how the malicious software spreads. You've probably heard the words virus, trojan, and worm used interchangeably, but as Symantec explains, they describe three subtly different ways malware can infect target computers:

  • worm is a standalone piece of malicious software that reproduces itself and spreads from computer to computer.
  • virus is a piece of computer code that inserts itself within the code of another standalone program, then forces that program to take malicious action and spread itself.
  • trojan is a program that cannot reproduce itself but masquerades as something the user wants and tricks them into activating it so it can do its damage and spread.

Malware can also be installed on a computer "manually" by the attackers themselves, either by gaining physical access to the computer or using privilege escalation to gain remote administrator access. 

Another way to categorize malware is by what it does once it has successfully infected its victim's computers. There are a wide range of potential attack techniques used by malware:

  • Spyware is defined by Webroot Cybersecurity as "malware used for the purpose of secretly gathering data on an unsuspecting user." In essence, it spies on your behavior as you use your computer, and on the data you send and receive, usually with the purpose of sending that information to a third party. A keylogger is a specific kind of spyware that records all the keystrokes a user makes—great for stealing passwords.
  • rootkit is, as described by TechTarget, "a program or, more often, a collection of software tools that gives a threat actor remote access to and control over a computer or other system." It gets its name because it's a kit of tools that (generally illicitly) gain root access (administrator-level control, in Unix terms) over the target system, and use that power to hide their presence.
  • Adware is malware that forces your browser to redirect to web advertisements, which often themselves seek to download further, even more malicious software. As The New York Times notes, adware often piggybacks onto tempting "free" programs like games or browser extensions.
  • Ransomware is a flavor of malware that encrypts your hard drive's files and demands a payment, usually in Bitcoin, in exchange for the decryption key. Several high-profile malware outbreaks of the last few years, such as Petya, are ransomware. Without the decryption key, it's mathematically impossible for victims to regain access to their files. So-called scareware is a sort of shadow version of ransomware; it claims to have taken control of your computer and demands a ransom, but actually is just using tricks like browser redirect loops to make it seem as if it's done more damage than it really has, and unlike ransomware can be relatively easily disabled.
  • Cryptojacking is another way attackers can force you to supply them with Bitcoin—only it works without you necessarily knowing. The crypto mining malware infects your computer and uses your CPU cycles to mine Bitcoin for your attacker's profit. The mining software may run in the b on your operating system or even as JavaScript in a browser window.
  • Malvertising is the use of legitimate ads or ad networks to covertly deliver malware to unsuspecting users’ computers. For example, a cybercriminal might pay to place an ad on a legitimate website. When a user clicks on the ad, code in the ad either redirects them to a malicious website or installs malware on their computer. In some cases, the malware embedded in an ad might execute automatically without any action from the user, a technique referred to as a “drive-by download.”

Any specific piece of malware has both a means of infection and a behavioral category. So, for instance, WannaCry is a ransomware worm. And a particular piece of malware might have different forms with different attack vectors: for instance, the Emotet banking malware has been spotted in the wild as both a trojan and a worm.

A look at the Center for Internet Security's top 10 malware offenders for June of 2018 gives you a good sense of the types of malware out there. By far the most common infection vector is via spam email, which tricks users into activating the malware, Trojan-style. WannaCry and Emotet are the most prevalent malware on the list, but many others, including NanoCore and Gh0st, are what's called Remote Access Trojans or RATs—essentially, rootkits that propagate like Trojans. Cryptocurrency malware like CoinMiner rounds out the list.

How to prevent malware

With spam and phishing email being the primary vector by which malware infects computers, the best way to prevent malware is make sure your email systems are locked down tight—and your users know how to spot danger. We recommend a combination of carefully checking attached documents and restricting potentially dangerous user behavior—as well as just familiarizing your users with common phishing scams so that their common sense can kick in.

When it comes to more technical preventative measures, there are a number of steps you can take, including keeping all your systems patched and updated, keeping an inventory of hardware so you know what you need to protect, and performing continuous vulnerability assessments on your infrastructure. When it comes to ransomware attacks in particular, one way to be prepared is to always make backups of your files, ensuring that you'll never need to pay a ransom to get them back if your hard drive is encrypted.

Malware protection

Antivirus software is the most widely known product in the category of malware protection products; despite "virus" being in the name, most offerings take on all forms of malware. While high-end security pros dismiss it as obsolete, it's still the backbone of basic anti-malware defense. Today's best antivirus software is from vendors Kaspersky Lab, Symantec and Trend Micro, according to recent tests by AV-TEST.

When it comes to more advanced corporate networks, endpoint security offerings provide defense in depth against malware. They provide not only the signature-based malware detection that you expect from antivirus, but anti-spyware, personal firewall, application control and other styles of host intrusion prevention. Gartner offers a list of its top picks in this space, which include products from Cylance, CrowdStrike, and Carbon Black.

How to detect malware

It's fully possible—and perhaps even likely—that your system will be infected by malware at some point despite your best efforts. How can you tell for sure? CSO columnist Roger Grimes has written a deep dive into how to diagnose your PC for potential malware that you might find helpful.

When you get to the level of corporate IT, there are also more advanced visibility tools you can use to see what's going on in your networks and detect malware infections. Most forms of malware use the network to either spread or send information back to their controllers, so network traffic contains signals of malware infection that you might otherwise miss; there are a wide range of network monitoring tools out there, with prices ranging from a few dollars to a few thousand. There are also SIEM tools, which evolved from log management programs; these tools analyze logs from various computers and appliances across your infrastructure looking for signs of problems, including malware infection. SIEM vendors range from industry stalwarts like IBM and HP Enterprise to smaller specialists like Splunk and Alien Vault.

Malware removal

How to remove malware once you're infected is in fact the million dollar question. Malware removal is a tricky business, and the method can vary depending on the type you're dealing with. CSO has information on how to remove or otherwise recover from rootkitsransomware, and cryptojacking. We also have a guide to auditing your Windows registry to figure out how to move forward.

If you're looking for tools for cleansing your system, Tech Radar has a good roundup of free offerings, which contains some familiar names from the antivirus world along with newcomers like Malwarebytes.  

Malware examples

We've already discussed some of the current malware threats looming large today. But there is a long, storied history of malware, dating back to infected floppy disks swapped by Apple II hobbyists in the 1980s and the Morris Worm spreading across Unix machines in 1988. Some of the other high-profile malware attacks have included:

  • ILOVEYOU, a worm that spread like wildfire in 2000 and did more than $15 billion in damage
  • SQL Slammer, which ground internet traffic to a halt within minutes of its first rapid spread in 2003
  • Conficker, a worm that exploited unpatched flaws in Windows and leveraged a variety of attack vectors – from injecting malicious code to phishing emails – to ultimately crack passwords and hijack Windows devices into a botnet.
  • Zeus, a late '00s keylogger Trojan that targeted banking information
  • CryptoLocker, the first widespread ransomware attack, whose code keeps getting repurposed in similar malware projects
  • Stuxnet, an extremely sophisticated worm that infected computers worldwide but only did real damage in one place: the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, where it destroyed uranium-enriching centrifuges, the mission it was built for by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies

Malware trends

You can count on cyber criminals to follow the money. They will target victims depending on likelihood of delivering their malware successfully and size of potential payout. If you look at malware trends over the past few years, you will see some fluctuation in terms of the popularity of certain types of malware and who the most common victims are—all driven by what the criminals believe will have the biggest ROI.

Recent research reports indicate some interesting shifts in malware tactics and targets. Cryptominers, which had surpassed ransomware as the most common type of malware, are falling out of favor due to the decline in cryptocurrency values. Ransomware is becoming more targeted, moving away from a shotgun approach.

Malware attacks on businesses spike

Businesses saw a 79 percent increase in the amount of malware they dealt with in 2018 over 2017, according to the Malwarebytes Labs State of Malware Report 2019. “What we usually see year-end or quarterly end is that there has been some sort of increase or large amounts of detections on the consumer side,” says Adam Kujawa, director of Malwarebytes Labs. “On the business side it might slowly grow, but certainly nothing like we’ve seen this last six months.” By comparison, consumer detections decreased by 3 percent over the same period.

“We’ve observed that there is a significant push by cyber criminals to move away from consumers and put their really heavy stuff against businesses instead,” Kujawa adds.

That “really heavy stuff” comes largely in the form of older consumer-focused malware that’s “been weaponized” to become a bigger, more versatile threat for business. Kujawa cites Emotet as one of the most significant. “It’s a nasty little information stealing Trojan that also installs additional malware, spreads laterally, and acts as its own spam sender. Once it infects a system, it starts sending email and tries to infect other people.”

Emotet has been around since 2014 and targeted mainly consumers. Originally, it infected a computer looking for an individual’s financial or credit card information to steal. Since then, it’s picked up new capabilities inspired by or borrowed from other successful malware like Wannacry or EternalBlue. “Now it’s become much more modular and we see it able to use these exploits to traverse through a corporate network whereas before they were limited to a single endpoint,” says Kujawa. “Even if it’s a small network in a small business, it’s more juicy than infecting Grandma.”

Lateral movement of malware is increasing, according to the Global Threat Report: The Year of the Next-Gen Cyberattack from Carbon Black. Nearly 60 percent of malware attacks on business are now designed to move laterally across a network.

One reason for the spike in malware attacks on business might be the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR). Kujawa believes it’s possible that attackers stepped up business attacks thinking that it would be harder to steal personal and other data after the regulation went into effect. That combined with the decline of cryptocurrency values and stepped up defenses against ransomware turned attackers to what worked in the past. “They always [go back to what works],” he says. “Cyber crime is cyclical. It always comes back around.”

Cryptomining attacks decline

The Malwarebyte Labs report has seen a shift away from cryptomining starting in the second quarter of 2018, due largely to the decline in cryptocurrency values. Still, the number of cryptomining detections increased for the year by 7 percent.

Instead, cyber criminals are turning to information stealing malware like Emotet to turn a profit. “Overall, it seems as though criminals have reached the consensus that sometimes stealing is better than mining,” the report stated.

Ransomware becoming more targeted

Kujawa notes that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are becoming more popular targets. He attributes this to the likelihood of being paid for ransomware attacks—SMBs often can’t afford the downtime and see paying ransom as the fastest way to recover. They also often softer targets than larger businesses.

Ransomware detections actually declined by 26 percent worldwide in 2018, according to the Malwarebytes report. However, ransomware detections at businesses rose by 28 percent. Industries most often targeted were consulting, education, manufacturing and retail. Kujawa believes criminals focus on these industries because of opportunity and likelihood of ransoms being paid.  


Types of malware

Adware

The malware that we will now discuss is known as one of the most annoying threats of our time. Adware is a bunch of applications or software that will come to your computer without your knowledge. Usually when we download, we unknowingly or due to an eye error, we download one instead of the other. This is because it is often seen that the adware download button is checked in advance for downloading the adware. And that download page has more than one download button. Adware will start downloading on your PC as soon as you click on one of the forgotten ones.

However, adware infections are not just for our own fault. This is because many device manufacturers have nothing to do with adware (such as browser hacks) on their devices. What can we do if Lenovo and Superfish break the rules?

Bloatware

All additional software that is pre-installed on your computer or smartphone or smart device against your will. For example, you want to install uTorrent. That's why you downloaded its setup file, closed your eyes and clicked Next to install it. Then you see that Opera Browser and Everest Security Center have been installed on your computer!

Of course, for many, Opera or Avast may be the necessary software. However, the fact is that you did not want to install this software. Because of these software, some extra resources will be used on your computer.

If you have extra free resources on your computer, think about all those old computers. Which have limited processing capacity. Can the extra software in it cause trouble?

Now, of course, after buying a computer or mobile phone, there are dozens of bloatwares in the operating system or in the custom ROM of that Android device. Many apps you can't remove even if you want to.

Trojans and Backdoors

Trojan malware is named after Trojan Horse. For those who don't know about Trojan Horse, here are a few ideas about Trojan Horse. You probably know the historical Trojan and Trojan wars. When the Trojans came to attack the city of Troy, the Trojans could not penetrate through the wall around the city of Troy. Later, they cleverly hid their warships and built a huge wooden horse on the beach. Inside which the Trojan heroes were hiding.

When the king of Troy realized that the Trojans had fled, he saw a huge wooden horse on the beach. He thought it was a blessing from God and brought it into the city of Troy. Then, in the darkness of the night, the Trojan soldiers broke their horses and came out, opening the gates of the fort from the inside and making way for the Trojan army to enter. Thus the city of Troy was destroyed in an unprotected state despite having a strong wall outside. Historic Trojan Horse | The city of Troy through which it was destroyed

This history of the Trojan Horse is deeply intertwined with the Trojan virus. Because that's exactly what the Trojan virus does. It hacks into your computer and then unknowingly tries to communicate with the server. When successful, the backdoor opens to control your PC. This means that hackers can control your PC remotely and take away all your secrets.

However, if you realize that your PC has been infected by a Trojan virus after being infected, the biggest advantage is that hackers will not be able to control your PC or steal data in any way if you keep your internet connection off. You can easily remove Trojan virus with Trojan Remover by keeping the connection off.

Spyware

The name Spyware gives a partial idea of ​​his work. Although most spyware is not relatively harmless, some spyware poses a very serious security risk. Spyware basically monitors your internet surfing and deals with ad related matters. Spyware can sometimes be more harmful than a Trojan horse, when it sends important information from your computer, pictures, emails, bank information servers or other users.

Spyware usually enters your PC during software downloads, adware downloads, and most freeware or shareware. Although Spyware Ad is mostly used for surfing, you have to be a little careful to keep yourself safe.

Scareware and Ransomware:

Although the way Scareware and Ransomware work is completely different, their ultimate purpose is the same. They both deal with their confidence as they choose to embark on their play activities.

Scareware is a program that unknowingly installs on your PC while surfing the net and alerts you with malware alerts that you are severely infected with malware and that you need to purchase a full version of your software to remove them. I myself read this problem from time to time, let me know your condition in Tumente.

Ransomware works a little differently. It locks important files on your PC or the whole PC from outside and demands money from you to unlock. While removing it is not a big problem, it is a cause for concern for new users or those who are not very experienced.

Worms

Worms are the most destructive of malware. If a file is transferred from a system infected with worms to another computer via the Internet, security vulnerabilities are created in that computer as well as in its network system. As a result, within a few minutes, the entire network is covered by worms and the computers connected to it are infected by the same malware.

In order to get rid of worms, the system affected by worms has to be disconnected first. Then the worms will not be able to attack anyone in a new way. Be aware of the online virus yourself and make others aware as well.

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Different types of malware contain unique traits and characteristics. Types of malware include:

  • virus is the most common type of malware that can execute itself and spread by infecting other programs or files.
  • worm can self-replicate without a host program and typically spreads without any human interaction or directives from the malware authors.
  • Trojan horse is designed to appear as a legitimate software program to gain access to a system. Once activated following installation, Trojans can execute their malicious functions.
  • Spyware is made to collect information and data on the device and user, as well as observe the user's activity without their knowledge.
  • Ransomware is designed to infect a user's system and encrypt its data. Cybercriminals then demand a ransom payment from the victim in exchange for decrypting the system's data.
  • rootkit is created to obtain administrator-level access to the victim's system. Once installed, the program gives threat actors root or privileged access to the system.
  • backdoor virus or remote access Trojan (RAT) secretly creates a backdoor into an infected computer system that enables threat actors to remotely access it without alerting the user or the system's security programs.
  • Adware is used to track a user's browser and download history with the intent to display pop-up or banner advertisements that lure the user into making a purchase. For example, an advertiser might use cookies to track the webpages a user visits to better target advertising.
  • Keyloggers, also called system monitors, are used to track nearly everything a user does on their computer. This includes emails, opened webpages, programs and keystrokes.

How to detect malware

A user may be able to detect malware if they observe unusual activity such as a sudden loss of disc space, unusually slow speeds, repeated crashes or freezes, or an increase in unwanted internet activity and pop-up advertisements. Antivirus software may also be installed on the device to detect and remove malware. These tools can provide real-time protection or detect and remove malware by executing routine system scans.

Windows Defender, for example, is Microsoft anti-malware software included in the Windows 10 operating system (OS) under the Windows Defender Security Center. Windows Defender protects against threats such as spyware, adware and viruses. Users can set automatic "Quick" and "Full" scans, as well as set low, medium, high and severe priority alerts.


How to remove malware

As mentioned, many security software products are designed to both detect and prevent malware, as well as remove it from infected systems.

Malwarebytes is an example of an antimalware tool that handles both detection and removal of malware. It can remove malware from Windows, macOS, Android and iOS platforms. Malwarebytes can scan a user's registry files, running programs, hard drives and individual files. If detected, malware can then be quarantined and deleted. However, unlike some other tools, users cannot set automatic scanning schedules.

How to prevent malware infections

There are several ways users can prevent malware. In the case of protecting a personal computer, users can install antimalware software. Beyond that, users can prevent malware by practicing safe behavior on their computer or other personal devices. This includes not opening attachments from strange email addresses that may contain malware disguised as a legitimate attachment -- such emails may even claim to be from legitimate companies but have unofficial email domains. Users should also update their antimalware software regularly, as hackers are always adapting and developing new techniques to breach security software. Security software vendors respond by releasing updates that patch those vulnerabilities. If a user neglects to update their software, they may miss out on a patch that leaves them vulnerable to a preventable exploit.

In enterprise settings, networks are larger than home networks, and there is more at stake financially. There are proactive steps companies should take to enforce malware protection. Outward-facing precautions include:

  • Implementing dual approval for business-to-business (B2B) transactions.
  • Implementing second-channel verification for business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions.

Business facing, internal precautions include:

  • Implementing offline malware and threat detection to catch malicious software before it spreads.
  • Implementing allowlist security policies whenever possible.
  • Implementing robust web browser-level security.

Does malware affect Mac devices?

Malware can affect Mac devices as well as Windows devices. Windows devices are considered by some to be a larger target for malware than Macs, in part because applications for Apple devices can only be downloaded through the heavily vetted App Store. For this reason, jailbroken Apple devices are more vulnerable to malware and other cyberattacks than normal Macs.

The company Malwarebytes reported in 2020 that for the first time ever, malware on Macs is outpacing malware on PCs. This is in part due to the popularity of Apple devices, drawing more attention from hackers.

Does malware affect mobile devices?

Malware can also be found on mobile phones and can provide access to a device's components such as the camera, microphone, GPS or accelerometer. Malware can be contracted on a mobile device if a user downloads an unofficial application or clicks on a malicious link from an email or text message. A mobile device can also be infected through a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.

Malware is found much more commonly on devices that run the Android OS compared to iOS devices. Malware on Android devices is usually downloaded through applications. Signs that an Android device is infected with malware include unusual increases in data usage, a quickly dissipating battery charge or calls, texts and emails being sent to the device contacts without the user's initial knowledge. Similarly, if a user receives a message from a recognized contact that seems suspicious, it may be from a type of mobile malware that spreads between devices.

Apple iOS devices are rarely infected with malware because Apple carefully vets the applications sold in the App Store. However, it is still possible for an iOS device to be infected with malicious code by opening an unknown link found in an email or text message. iOS devices will become more vulnerable if jailbroken.

History of malware

The term malware was first used by computer scientist and security researcher Yisrael Radai in 1990. However, malware existed long before this. One of the first known examples of malware was the Creeper virus in 1971, which was created as an experiment by BBN Technologies engineer Robert Thomas. Creeper was designed to infect mainframes on ARPANET. While the program did not alter functions -- or steal or delete data -- it moved from one mainframe to another without permission while displaying a teletype message that read, "I'm the creeper: Catch me if you can." Creeper was later altered by computer scientist Ray Tomlinson, who added the ability to self-replicate to the virus and created the first known computer worm.

The concept of malware took root in the technology industry, and examples of viruses and worms began to appear on Apple and IBM personal computers in the early 1980s before becoming popularized following the introduction of the World Wide Web and the commercial internet in the 1990s. Since then, malware, and the security strategies to prevent it, have only grown more complex.

Similar programs

There are other types of programs that share common traits with malware but are distinctly different, such as a PUP, or potentially unwanted program. These are typically applications that trick users into installing them on their system (such as browser toolbars) but do not execute any malicious functions once they have been installed. However, there are cases where a PUP may contain spyware-like functionality or other hidden malicious features, in which case the PUP would be classified as malware.







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