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What is Malware? What are the signs of Malware Infection?

  • Yashoda Gandhi
  • Apr 02, 2022
What is Malware? What are the signs of Malware Infection? title banner

Every year, the medical community campaigns for everyone to get a flu shot. This is because flu outbreaks usually have a season—a time of year when they start spreading and infecting people.


Seasonal infections, on the other hand, are unpredictable for PCs, smartphones, tablets, and enterprise networks. For them, it's always flu season. Instead of chills and body aches, users can become ill from malware, a type of machine malady.


Each malware infection has its own attack strategy, which can range from stealthy and sneaky to as blunt as a sledgehammer. But, if knowledge is power, we offer here a short cybersecurity course on malware, what it is, its symptoms, how you get it, how to deal with it, and how to avoid it in the future as a preventative inoculation against infection. So, let us learn more about malware.



What is Malware?


“Malware (short for “malicious software”) is a file or code, typically delivered over a network, that infects, explores, steals, or conducts virtually any behavior an attacker wants. And because malware comes in so many variants, there are numerous methods to infect computer systems”.


Malware, also referred to as "malicious software," is a catch-all term for any malicious program or code that is harmful to systems.


Malware is hostile, intrusive, and malicious software that attempts to infiltrate, damage, or disable computers, computer systems, networks, tablets, and mobile devices, frequently by gaining partial control of the device's operations. It, like the human flu, interferes with normal functioning.


In general, the software is classified as malware based on the creator's intent rather than its actual features. Malware development is on the rise as a result of the money that can be made through organized Internet crime. The malware was originally intended for experiments and pranks, but it was eventually used for vandalism and the destruction of targeted machines. 


Today, much malware is written with the intent of profiting from forced advertising (adware), stealing sensitive information (spyware), spreading email spam or child pornography (zombie computers), or extorting money (ransomware).


Also Read | Targeted Ransomware



How Does Malware Work?


Malware of any kind follows the same basic pattern: the user unknowingly downloads or installs the malware, which infects the device. The vast majority of malware infections occur as a result of an unintentional action that causes the malware to be downloaded. This can be as simple as clicking a link in an email or visiting a malicious website. 


Malware is also distributed by hackers through peer-to-peer file-sharing services and free software download bundles in other cases. Incorporating malware into a popular torrent or download is an effective way to spread it to a large number of users. Mobile devices can also be infected by text messages.


Malware typically infects a machine by tricking users into downloading and/or installing a malicious program from the Internet. When a user clicks or installs a malicious code, the malicious code performs actions that the user does not anticipate or intend, which may include:


  1. There is self-replication in various parts of the file system.


  1. Installing applications that capture keystrokes or commandeer system resources without the user's knowledge, often while significantly slowing down the system.


  1. Access to files, programs, or even the entire system is restricted, and the user is sometimes forced to pay to regain access.


  1. Ads clogging a browser or desktop


  1. Destroying critical system components and rendering a device non-operational


Another method is to embed malware in the firmware of a USB stick or flash drive. Because the malware is loaded onto the device's internal hardware rather than its file storage, your device is unlikely to detect it. 


This is why you should never insert a USB drive that you are unfamiliar with into your computer.Once installed, the malware infects your device and begins to work towards the hackers' goals. 


Also Read |  Introduction to Application Security


Signs of Malware Infection


How would you know if a malware has infected your system? Here are some signs that you can be on the lookout for. 


  1. Performance slowdown: If your computer slows down, it's most likely because something in the background is consuming system resources. 


This is common when your computer has been enslaved by a botnet, which is a network of enslaved computers. A botnet is a network of computers that can be used to launch DDoS attacks or mine cryptocurrency.


  1. Frequent crashes and freezing: Some malware will freeze or crash your computer, while others will cause crashes by consuming too much RAM or raising CPU temperatures. Persistently high CPU usage could indicate the presence of malware.


  1. Pop-up advertisements are a common symptom of malware infection : Pop-ups are often bundled with other undetected malware threats. So, if you see a pop-up that says "CONGRATULATIONS, YOU'VE WON A FREE PSYCHIC READING!" don't click on it. 


  1. Strange messages are being sent to your contacts from you: Some malware spreads by sending emails or text messages to victims' contacts. Secure messaging apps can help keep your communications safe from prying eyes.


The first thing a Trojan does when it infects a computer is connected to the attacker's command and control server (C&C). This could explain the rise in Internet usage.


  1. You come across a ransom note: Ransomware wants you to be aware of its presence, so it will take over your screen and display a ransom note demanding payment to restore your files. A ransom note is an easy way to tell if you have ransomware on your computer.


You can't access your files or the entire computer. This indicates a ransomware infection. The hackers announce their presence by leaving a ransom note on your desktop or by changing the wallpaper on your desktop to a ransom note. 


The perpetrators typically inform you in the note that your data has been encrypted and request a ransom payment in exchange for decrypting your files.


Also Read | What are Encrypting Viruses?



Preventing Malware


To detect and prevent malware, a variety of security solutions are used. To ensure proper operation, all security solutions should be tested using a variety of malware-based attacks.


To ensure testing against the most recent attacks, a robust, up-to-date malware signature library must be used. Because the Cortex XDR agent does not rely on signatures, it can prevent zero-day malware and unknown exploits using a variety of prevention methods.


  1. Malware Detection


Advanced malware analysis and detection tools include firewalls, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and sandboxing solutions. Some malware is easier to detect, such as ransomware, which immediately encrypts your files and alerts you to its presence.


Malware use always has a malicious intent, regardless of the malware type or meaning, its detectability, or the person deploying it. When you enable behavioral threat protection in your endpoint security policy, the Cortex XDR agent can also continuously monitor endpoint activity for malicious event chains identified by Palo Alto Networks.


  1. Malware Removal


Cortex XDR allows for endpoint remediation following an alert or investigation. Administrators can begin a number of mitigation steps, beginning with disabling all network access on compromised endpoints. 


Most common infection types can be  removed by antivirus software, and there are numerous options for off-the-shelf solutions.


  1. Malware Protection


To protect your organization from malware, you must implement a comprehensive, enterprise-wide malware protection strategy.


Commodity threats are less sophisticated exploits that can be detected and prevented using a combination of firewall antivirus, anti-spyware, and vulnerability protection features, as well as URL filtering and Application identification capabilities.


Also Read | Information Security vs Cyber Security



Common Types of Malware


We’ve listed 8 common types of Malware below :

Types of Malware including :1) Adware2)  Virus3) Worms4)  Trojan 5)  Botnets6)  Hacktool7)  Ransomeware8)  Backdoors

Types of Malware

  1. Adware


Adware is software that displays unsolicited or malicious advertisements. While it is relatively harmless, it can be annoying because "spammy" ads continue to appear while you work, significantly slowing down the performance of your computer. 


Furthermore, these advertisements may unintentionally lead users to download more dangerous types of malware. Keep your operating system, web browser, and email clients up to date to detect and block known adware attacks before they can download and install.


  1. Worms


Worms are designed with one goal in mind: to multiply. A worm infects a computer and then replicates, spreading to other machines while remaining active on all infected machines. 


Some worms act as delivery agents for other malware. Other types are only intended to spread without causing harm to their host machines – but they still clog networks with bandwidth demands.


  1. Virus


Worms are created with only one goal in mind: reproduction. A computer worm infects a machine and then replicates, spreading to other machines while remaining active on all infected machines. Some worms serve as delivery agents for other types of malware.


Other types are only meant to spread without harming their hosts, but their bandwidth demands still clog networks.


  1. Trojans


A trojan program appears to be legitimate, but it is actually malicious. Unlike a virus or worm, a trojan cannot spread on its own and must be executed by its victim. A trojan is typically introduced into your network via email or a website link. Because trojans spread and download themselves through social engineering, they can be more difficult to combat.


The simplest way to avoid trojans is to never download or install software from an unknown source. Instead, ensure that employees only download software from reputable developers and app stores that you have pre-approved.


  1. Botnets


A botnet is not a type of malware, but rather a network of computers or computer code capable of carrying out or executing malware. Attackers infect a group of computers with malicious software known as "bots," which can be controlled by their master.


These computers then join together to form a network, giving the controller access to a significant amount of collective processing power, which can be used to coordinate distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, send spam, steal data, and create fake ads in your browser.


  1. HackTool


A HackTool is a piece of software that a hacker uses to attack and exploit a system in order to gain unauthorized access to system resources. It attempts to obtain information about the system by circumventing the system's inherent security mechanisms.


HackTools include things like Netcat. It is even used by network administrators on occasion. However, it is mostly used by hackers to gain unauthorized access to a network and to transmit data over it.


  1. Ransomware


Ransomware attacks encrypt data on a device and hold it for ransom until the hacker is paid to decrypt it. If the ransom is not paid by the deadline, the hacker will threaten to delete or expose the data. Paying the fee may not help; victims frequently lose their data even if they pay the fee. 


Because of their impact on hospitals, telecommunications companies, railway networks, and government offices, ransomware attacks are among the most newsworthy malware types. The WannaCry attack, which locked up hundreds of thousands of devices in over 150 countries, is a prime example.


Create regular off-site backups at a secure off-site facility in addition to patching and training employees on cyber hygiene best practices to avoid having them click on malicious links. This will allow you to quickly restore your systems without having to pay the ransom.


  1. BackDoors


By opening a port on the system, backdoors allow unauthorized access to a compromised system. This opens the door for hackers to take control of the compromised system by sending malicious commands.


Backdoors such as SubSeven, NetBus, and Back Orifice are well-known examples of backdoors that prevent unauthorized people from accessing a user's system over the internet without his/her knowledge. 


Fortunately, malware can be found and removed from your device. If you want a simpler solution, you can use various security apps and malware removal tools available online to quickly identify and neutralize any threats.


Also Read | Adverse Impact Of Internet


Malware attacks are on the rise, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic. Malware increased 358 percent year over year in 2020, as the attack surface expanded significantly with employees working from home. 


Employees were far more likely to inadvertently download malware that they might have avoided before without the protection of the corporate network—and possibly distracted by family members who also worked and learned from home.


This is happening as hackers become more sophisticated and professional, transforming malware into a multibillion-dollar industry. In fact, by 2025, cybercrime is expected to cost global businesses $10.5 trillion per year, increasing the need for advanced security to combat it. 

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