Malware is an umbrella term that people often use to describe all kinds of attacks. Do you know what malware is? And do you know, for example, that it is a combination of two words? Read on in our article to find out more.
What is malware?
In other words malware is a malicious program that damages, for example, a server, system, or network of computers. Financial data, medical records, personal e-mails, and passwords are just a few examples of the types of data that attackers steal with the help of malware.
The meaning of Malware
Malware is an umbrella term for viruses, worms, trojans, and other malicious computer programs used by hackers to cause havoc and gain access to sensitive data. It is short for “a broad term that refers to any application designed to damage a single system, server or computer network”, according to Microsoft. It is a contraction of the words ‘Malicious Software’.
How does malware get on your computer?
There are several ways malware can end up on your computer. A common method is via malicious email attachments or links. For example, you may receive an email that looks legitimate, but actually contains an attachment containing malware. Opening this attachment activates the rogue code and can infect your system. Malware can also spread through compromised websites, injecting malicious code into legitimate web pages. Another way is using infected external storage devices.
How do I get rid of malware?
Removing malware from your computer is an important task to ensure the security and proper functioning of your system. Here are some steps you can take to remove malware:
- Use reputable antivirus software: Install an up-to-date antivirus program and run regular scans to detect and remove any malware.
- Update your software: Make sure that your operating system and other installed programs are always up to date. Updates often contain patches that patch known vulnerabilities and protect you from new threats.
- Uninstall suspicious programs: Go through the list of installed programs on your computer and remove any programs you suspect are malicious.
- Perform regular backups: Regularly back up your important files and data so that you can restore them if your system becomes infected.
Types of malware
There are many different types of malware that you can come across in everyday life. Below you can read more about these different types:
A computer virus is a malicious piece of software. The purpose of the scratched software is to spread to devices. Spread to other devices often takes place by downloading infected e-mail attachments. After downloading and opening the file, the software is installed on the victim’s computer.
For more information read our article: what is a virus?
Trojans, or a trojan horse, present themselves as legitimate software but contain malware. It is certainly possible that the program that has been downloaded works properly, but at the same time malware has been downloaded. Personal data may be stolen or a device may be held hostage. In addition, the possibilities are endless, depending on the permissions one obtains after installation.
Read more about trojans in our article: what is a trojan?
Worms spread from computer to computer by exploiting a security hole in software or an operating system. They do not require human intervention. It is similar to a virus in many ways, but a worm does not need any action from the user to spread to other systems.
Read more about this in our article: what is a worm?
Ransomware encrypts your files and demands a ransom payment to restore access to your data. It is a growing threat and can wreak havoc on individuals and organizations.
Ransomware occurs when a computer, system and/or files become inaccessible to the actual users. The system or computer is released after payment of money to the hackers. Usually the hacker asks for money in the form of bitcoin. We know this is as crypto ransomware or cryptomalware.
For more information read our article: what is ransomware?
Spyware is a type of application that is active on a computer without the user knowing that this application collects and transmits personal information. It is not just about listening in on conversations or watching via a webcam. This also involves tracking all actions on a computer. Unfortunately you can buy spyware items in various webshops and brick-and-mortar stores. Think for example of the jealous husband/wife or to keep an eye on the surfing behavior of children.
A keylogger is a form of malware that records all keystrokes on an infected system. This allows malicious people to steal sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, and other personal information. In addition, keyloggers can enter a system in various ways, such as through infected email attachments, compromised websites or by exploiting software vulnerabilities.
Adware revolves around advertising, or “ads”. You may have experienced it: countless pop-ups with flashing advertisements. This is of course undesirable and you are not waiting for this. While adware is usually not directly harmful, it can be very annoying and disrupt the user experience. Adware is often distributed through free software and can also collect personal data, such as browsing history and search queries, to serve targeted advertisements.
Rootkits are advanced forms of malware that are embedded deep into the operating system of a computer or phone. They try to remain unnoticed and give malicious users full access and control over the infected system. Rootkits can be used to hide other forms of malware and can be very difficult to detect and remove.
Cryptominer software uses a victim’s computer to “mine” cryptocurrencies on behalf of the attacker; an activity known as cryptojacking. A large number of cryptominers use browser hijacking to take control of machines. Cryptominers can significantly slow down a system’s performance and cause unwanted energy consumption.
How can I protect my organization against malware?
Protecting your organization against malware is critical to securing sensitive data and ensuring business continuity. So here are some important steps you can take:
- Use up-to-date security software: Install and maintain strong antivirus and antimalware programs on all your company computers and devices. Make sure that the software is regularly updated to detect and combat new threats.
- Implement a firewall: A firewall acts as a barrier between the internal network and external network, helping to block unauthorized access to your system. Make sure you have a firewall set up on both your network and individual devices.
- Use strong passwords and 2FA: Encourage employees to use strong, unique passwords and enable 2FA. This helps reducing the chance of unlawful access to systems. Even if passwords are compromised.
- Keep software up to date: Make sure that all software and operating systems on your computers and devices are regularly up to date with the latest security patches and updates. This helps close known vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit with malware.
- Email attachments and links: Teach employees how to recognize and avoid suspicious emails. Encourage them not to open unknown attachments or click suspicious links, as this is a common way malware is distributed.
- Perform regular backups: Regularly back up your business data and make sure these backups are stored in a secure location. This allows you to restore your data without paying a ransom in the event of a malware infection.
- Limit user rights: Restrict employees’ access rights to only those systems and data they need to perform their jobs. This can minimize the impact of any malware infection.
Train your employees
You can implement the above tips in your organization. However, if your employee accidentally installs malware by clicking on a malicious link, many of these recommendations will not help. Because security in the workplace is rarely flawless, an accident is in a small corner. Therefore, provide regular training sessions and awareness campaigns to inform employees about the dangers of malware. Organizations can better defend themselves against these attacks through cybersecurity awareness training and phishing simulations.
It is sometimes difficult to see if your system has a malware infection. However, there are some signs that can tell you it is. These include sudden slowdowns of your computer, unexplained pop-ups, changes to your browser settings, unusual network activity, or unexplained data loss. It is important to regularly scan your system with a reputable antivirus software to detect possible malware infections.
Although many people use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference between a virus and malware. A virus is a specific type of malware that can replicate itself and infect other files. It is a form of malicious software that can harm your system. Malware, on the other hand, is a broader term that encompasses various forms of malicious software, including viruses, trojans, worms, ransomware, and more.
Malware can have different harmful effects depending on its type and its objectives. Some of the common consequences include data theft, financial loss, identity theft, file loss, system instability, privacy breaches, and loss of control over your device. Malware can also be used to perform other malicious activities, such as spreading spam, attacking other systems, or creating a botnet.
Malware on your phone refers to malicious software specifically designed to attack mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It can steal your personal information, gain unauthorized access to your device, perform malicious activities or violate your privacy. Mobile malware can slow down your phone, display unwanted ads, track your browsing habits, and steal sensitive information such as login credentials and credit card information. It is important to take precautions such as downloading apps from reliable sources and regularly updating your operating system to minimize the chances of infection.