We get asked the question all the time at Tech 4 Accountants: “What is Malware?” Most of the time people have a firm understanding of what a virus is but don’t realize that viruses fall under the larger umbrella of malware. So what is malware exactly?
Malware is software that intentionally causes damage to a computer, server or computer network.
All malware are viruses. Viruses are one type of malware. Similar to how not every computer is made by Dell. Dell is just one of many brands of computers and viruses are just one brand of several types of malware.
Common malware types include:
Let’s dive into each of these terms and define them.
Disrupts the normal use of the computer. Usually characterized by sluggish performance and crashing. A virus’s goal is to destroy and harm the computer.
This attack is about numbers. Your computer and thousands of others can be used under the direction of one individual (The Bot Master) after being infected by this type of malware. Usually, infected computers are then used in an orchestrated action such as to take down specific websites or launch DDoS attacks.
A DDoS attack or distributed denial of service attack is when multiple computers are attempting to access a website constantly to overwhelm it. A website is hosted by a network and its resources are finite. If enough people repeatedly attempt to access that site it can be made inaccessible for other users not involved in the attack.
This type of malware pops on your computer saying you need to pay money in order to fix an imaginary error. Scareware will make up any number of very scary sounding reasons as to why you have to pay or call a number.
Scareware may claim your hard drive is about to crash, the FBI will be notified of illegal activity, all of your personal data is being exploited and set off overseas, etc.
The list of lies is endless but the goal is to scare you while there is no actual threat being present.
Sometimes this type of malware is bundled with less than reputable software. If you’re rushing during the installation process you may have not noticed that you agreed to download a bundled software. That bundled software is sometimes scareware.
This type of malware encrypts your data and you need the pay some type of ransom in order to get your files back. Most of the time this is done through a cryptocurrency or other untraceable means. It’s unfortunate that even after you pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars requested there is no guarantee that you will get your data back.
Contact us now to make sure your computer is secure:
One of the least scary of the malware types listed. Often times it’s primarily just advertisements popping up on the computer. These types of advertisements might be misleading or lies but they’re essentially just advertisements. This version of malware could also be considered scareware because it’ll frighten you into calling a phone number and is a thinly veiled advertisement.
Software that is designed to gather your personal information and sell it to third parties. It has been increasingly common for spyware has been used against large corporation to get customer credit cards and personal information. Passwords, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, etc. are all key information that can later be sold on the Dark Web.
An extreme infection that can infect to the operating system level. A computer which is infected with a rootkit is pretty much as exploited as it can get. A rootkit allows for control and editing by a 3rd party on every level of the system. Passwords can be changed, accounts can be locked, keystrokes can be logged, any number of things are possible.
Worms: Once a worm is on one computer in the network it will try to infect all computers in the network. Worms are designed to bounce between computers, infect and control, and then move on.
If you need further information or want a check up to see how your computer is running, feel free to give us a call at 844-881-7874.
The biggest malware examples
Security threats come and go but the worst malware in history stands a cut above the rest. Each one on this list is here for different reasons and some have caused incalculable dollars in damage.
Stuxnet was created by US government engineers to slow the creation of nuclear weapons in Iran. In the past where invasions or bombings would be required to stale that process, lines of code are now able to.
This virus was spread by an agent and a USB thumb drive at the nuclear lab. This virus caused the centrifuges used in the creation of weapons-grade uranium to self-destruct. This cost Iran both time and money to rebuild their program. Stuxnet is the first known use of cyber warfare which was released to the public however it’s unlikely to be the last.
The damage: Unclear.
MyDoom is another fast-spreading email delivered malware. The malware’s intended target was Microsoft, Google, and SCO. Its goal was to use the infected computers to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack on those companies’ websites. By 2004 as many as 25% of all email inboxes contained the MyDoom email.
The Damage: $38 billion.
This virus gained notoriety in 2000 and created the most damage of any malware up to that point. Although not sophisticated by today’s standards this virus was the inspiration for countless hackers to create malware.
Why exactly was it such a problem? Mainly because people didn’t take malware protection seriously. Also, people were not trained on what to look for. Most today would be quick to mark a suspicious email as spam and not open it. However back in 2000 many curious email users chose to open the email titled I Love You. Once opened a file named LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs would download and overwrite the files on the computer.
Even though many news outlets covered the story and advised against opening the email, the virus still gained steam. The malware was written by Reonel Ramones and Onel de Guzman. However since there was no precedent of this happening and no laws explicitly making malware creation illegal, they were not convicted of a crime.
The damage: $15 billion.
This virus is something movies are made of. Its goal was essentially to take over the internet and was pretty successful at doing so. It quickly got to work and within about 15 minutes it controlled more than half of the servers used to maintain the global internet network. ATMs stopped working, local 911 networks were unresponsive, and airline flights were unable to be scheduled. This virus broke the internet.
The Damage: Around $1 billion.
CryptoLocker a type of ransomware which hit notoriety in September 2013. It was able to spread through email attachments and primarily. CryptoLocker encrypted the infected user’s files so that they couldn’t open them. The writers of this ransomware only sent a decryption key if the infected user paid a large sum of cash.
In some cases, a System Restore or 3rd party recovery software was able to salvage the situation. However with the majority of the exploited systems if the hackers weren’t paid the files were unrecoverable. Situations like this highlight the importance of backing up your data.
The kingpin of this operation was Evgeniy Bogachev but was just one of many hackers involved in creating CryptoLocker. The FBI had offered a $3 million reward for Bogachev and they were able to bring him to justice for one of the worst malware in history.
The Damage: Over 500,000 victims and CryptoLocker received more than $30 million in 100 days.