Malicious software, otherwise known as Malware, is lurking everywhere. It’s software used to gain access to or to damage your cell phone or computer. The worst part about Malware is that most of the time, you’re oblivious to the fact that it’s on your device.
In this case, ignorance is definitely not bliss. Malware can cause performance issues with your device and if left unmitigated for long enough you’ll have to take your device to a cell phone repair shop for data recovery or a software reset.
As technology advances, so does Malware. It has become more versatile as it’s equipped with different functions to accomplish the goals of cybercriminals. Sometimes different forms of Malware can be combined for a more vicious attack, like using a computer virus to distract the user from a trojan horse.
Because so many harmful programs fall under the umbrella of Malware, it is important to understand how each program works, and what can be done to reduce your chances of being a victim of nefarious software or code. That’s the purpose of this article series.
What is a computer virus?
A computer can be defined as software that’s able to copy itself onto computers. After a virus has made it onto your device, it can begin its destruction. It will change the way your device operates and will spread from your device to the next one.
Just like flu viruses can’t reproduce without a sick host, computer viruses can’t spread without “host” programming like files or documents.
How Do Computer Viruses Work?
Once a virus has attached itself to a file, program, or document, it will lie in waiting until you run the infected program. This will cause the virus code to execute.
Once your computer or cell phone is infected, the virus can infect other computers or cellphones on the same network.
Viruses can range from irritating to devastating. They can spam your email contacts, corrupt files, steal passwords or sensitive information, destroy files, and log your keystrokes.
How Does a Computer Virus Spread?
There are a variety of ways to contract a computer virus. They can spread through text messages and email attachments, files you might download over the internet, and scam links on social media.
Your cell phone can catch a virus with unreputable apps, a virus can be disguised as a funny image that gets shared, or even audio and video files can contain computer viruses.
How Can I Tell if I Have a Computer Virus?
A computer infected with a virus has a few tell-tale signs:
● Changes to your web browser’s homepage – your usual homepage might change to another site, and you may not be able to reset it.
● Computer crashes – A computer virus can do serious damage to your hard drive, causing it to freeze, crash, or even prevent it from turning back on.
● Pop-up windows – These pop-ups may encourage you to download antivirus or other programs.
● Emails sent from your account – A hacker may seize control over your account or send emails in your name from another computer they have infected.
● Strange startup programs – Unknown programs may start up when your computer does, or you may see an unfamiliar program in your computer’s list of running applications.
● Slow computer performance – If your computer’s processing speed suddenly slows down, you may have a virus.
● Password changes – Your passwords may be changed, and this could even stop you from logging into your computer.
What Are The Different Types of Computer Viruses?
● Web Scripting Virus – This virus lurks within the code of certain websites. If you visit the site, this virus can attack your cell phone or computer.
● Browser Hijack Virus – This virus can take control over your web browser and automatically direct you to a malicious website.
● Resident Virus – This is an inclusive term for any virus that infects your computer system’s memory. This virus will fire off anytime your operating system loads.
● Polymorphic Virus – This virus will change its code every time an infected file is executed to evade antivirus programs.
● Direct Action Virus – This virus will strike when you run an infected file, and only then.
● Multipartite Virus – This virus infects and spreads in a variety of ways, damaging system sectors, and program files.
● File Infector Virus – This virus will insert harmful code into files that are used to perform particular operations on a system.
● Macro Virus – These viruses are spread through infected documents, often spread through email.
What Can I Do To Protect Against a Computer Virus?
Always use a reputable antivirus program and be vigilant about updating it with the current virus definitions.
Never click on any pop-up ads.
Always scan email attachments before you open them, and never download email attachments that you aren’t expecting.
Always scan files you have downloaded using file-sharing programs, and avoid files from websites that you don’t trust.
Malware can be found almost anywhere on the Internet – including your connected device. If your cell phone or computer is infected, chances are you have no idea until it is too late.
Malware often causes performance issues with your device and if you don’t remove it, you may just wind up in a cell phone repair shop in need of hardware repair or data recovery services.
In this series on Malware in 2021, we are going to explain what the different types of Malware are, answer some common questions, and show you what you can do to prevent infecting your device.
This software monitors what you are doing on your computer or cell phone. This includes messages you have sent, your browsing history, or the types of applications you have used. Spyware can be downloaded to your device in a number of ways.
If you download a toolbar for your web browser, for example, it may come locked and loaded with spyware to monitor your computer use.
Sometimes, spyware is sold as software built for parents who want to monitor their children’s internet use. This software is specifically built to be ignored by security and antivirus software. While concerned parents may take advantage of these programs, they are more often used by people who want to spy on their spouses or employers who want to monitor the activity of employees.
This is a common form of Malware that comes disguised as a legitimate tool, tricking the user into installing it.
You may download a Trojan horse, thinking it is a legitimate update or Flash download. Once this code has infiltrated your system, it will begin to attack.
Trojans can access keystrokes, passwords, banking details, system information, screenshots and more, and send it to the attackers who built them. Trojans may even allow criminals to modify your data or turn off anti-malware programs.
Ransomware infects systems through malicious attachments or links and will encrypt your computer system, locking you out until you pay a criminal to get your data back.
Ransomware can be devastating – in 2016, hackers were able to steal over $1 billion from these types of attacks alone.
This software aims to eradicate all data from your computer or network. This might happen after cybercriminals have already pirated your data, or this attack might be launched with the intention of complete sabotage.
This type of malware spreads from system to system, without the need for users to take any type of action.
These programs will exploit software vulnerabilities or holes in operating systems, but they can also distribute themselves through email attachments. If this is the case, a computer worm can access the contact book on an infected computer.
If you’re wondering why there is so much Malware around, the answer is that it makes cyber criminals money. Adware accomplishes this goal very well. It pushes malicious advertisements to the user. Typically the only way to get rid of these annoying ads is to click through them. And each click brings more money to hackers.
If you are using a computer, these advertisements are simply designed to be so annoying that the user repeatedly clicks the pop-up windows to make them go away. Adware on a mobile device tells a different story – adware can make a device unusable if the pop-up windows take up the whole screen in an influx.
A botnet, or robot network, allows hackers to hijack a network of a handful to millions of machines.
When your device is part of a botnet, it almost becomes a zombie – falling under the control of a malicious party who issues commands to all of the infected devices at once.
With a botnet, hackers can accomplish large-scale malicious campaigns, like DDoS attacks which will inundate a victim with traffic to overwhelm a service or website enough to push it offline.
Another common attack by botnets is spam email attachment campaigns. These can be used to gather more devices into the network so cybercriminals can steal financial data.
This Malware is specifically designed to stay quiet so that users are unaware that their device is essentially a zombie.
Malware, or malicious software, can range from annoying to devastating. There are a variety of nefarious programs waiting to strike around every corner, and if you don’t protect yourself you can face serious consequences.
Your machine might be helping cybercriminals attack their victims as you read this, or Malware might be eating up your device. If left unattended for too long, your phone or computer hardware might be damaged, causing the need for cell phone repair or data recovery.
How do you get Malware?
Once upon a time, Malware would need to be physically delivered to a host through a CD ROM or floppy disc. This might still be the case, although nowadays this will typically happen with a USB or flash drive. It is not uncommon for criminals to leave USB sticks in parking lots outside of targeted businesses, with hopes that an employee will pick one up out of curiosity and plug it into a connected computer network.
However, it’s more common these days that Malware will be delivered in phishing emails through email attachments.
Some attackers shoot for low-hanging fruit – sometimes sending a blank email with nothing but an attachment.
These criminals send malicious emails in hopes that someone will simply click on an attachment or link and that they don’t have any sort of protection installed on their device.
A more sophisticated form of Malware delivery is when cybercriminals send emails informing a user that they need to check their bank account, pay taxes, or attend court. Essentially, they will send a message that causes their targets to panic and react without thought.
A message falsely claiming that a victim has been summoned to court may cause them to click a link due to shock and the need to get more information. That is all it takes to activate Malware, with trojan horses or ransomware on the way.
An even more sophisticated phishing email hones in one organization or even one person. The phishing email will be personalized and will contain pertinent information to make it look more legitimate.
That being said, there are a variety of other ways for Malware to spread that don’t require any action on your end, typically through networks and other vulnerabilities.
As more users are avoiding unexpected emails and strange attachments, cybercriminals have been forced to find other ways to infect computers.
One way to infect a computer involves the use of fileless malware. Fileless attacks launch scripts from memory or take advantage or zero-day exploits, infecting networks and devices without a trace.
Fileless Malware works because it uses a devices own trusted system services and files to take action. All of this remains undetected, because your anti-virus software won’t see any wrongdoing if trusted files are involved.
This type of Malware allows cybercriminals to create files and folders hidden from you, and to create scripts they can use to attack your device, connect to your network, and eventually control your server.
Not only is it hard to detect fileless malware, it’s also difficult to protect against. Make sure that all of your systems and software are up to date, patched, and that restricted users can’t elevate computer privileges to prevent fileless malware.
It’s Not Just Windows
Many people mistakenly believe that only Microsoft systems can become infected with malware.
While nefarious software is still a challenge for Microsoft computers, it’s not exclusive to PCs.
You might believe that your Mac is immune from infection. But there are forms of Malware that specifically target your Apple. Windows devices still receive the brunt of Malware attacks, but Macs are also regular targets.
As the number of smartphones and tablets increased, cybercriminals realized that they could also exploit smartphones. Not only do our devices contain a wealth of personal information, they can be used to monitor our locations.
Trojan horses, information-stealing software, ransomware, and pop-up adware can all carry out their malicious attacks on smartphones too.
The sheer amount of data we carry on our smartphones makes them even more valuable to cybercriminals, especially if they are looking to spy on a victim within an organization.
Thanks to the vast capabilities of smartphones, it’s possible, with the right malware, to listen into conversations and take photos of device owners using the microphone and camera.
Because Google has such a large share of the mobile market and the Android ecosystem is so open, Androids suffer from the majority of malware attacks on smartphones.
Although most attackers reach target devices through third-party application stores, Malware has occasionally successfully infiltrated the Google Play store as well.
These apps come in the form of useful tools – typically utility tools that require a lot of permissions, games, or even mimic legitimate apps, like the fake version of WhatsApp that has been downloaded over a million times.
These malicious apps are often designed to look like original useful tools or games or in some cases mimic legitimate apps outright — as demonstrated by a fake version of WhatsApp that was downloaded over a million times.
iPhone malware is rare, but it’s still out there. It’s possible to download malicious apps on a jailbroken phone, and hacking gangs have exploited vulnerabilities to install Pegasus spyware on selected targets.
Internet of Things malware?
If it’s connected to the internet, it’s open to cyberattacks.
Although the Internet of Things has brought convenience to owners, it’s also opened the floodgates for new criminal activity.
Many devices are pushed out into the market with little to no thought put into cybersecurity, making home devices sitting ducks for Malware infiltration – household products, industrial control systems, and disturbingly, children’s toys have been infected with malicious code.
IoT devices are most commonly infected and roped into botnets. However, devices like smart lighting systems, surveillance cameras, and routers can also easily become infected, causing serious damage to their owners.
One example of IoT malware was BrickerBot, a program that infected devices beyond repair by corrupting their storage.
If smartphones can be turned into surveillance devices by hackers, devices meant for surveillance such as internet-connected cameras can certainly be manipulated as well.
There’s already been multiple circumstances where IoT camera security was so basic that Malware was able to infect devices in droves.
Unlike mobile phones, we tend to plug in IoT devices and forget about them – and also forget about the possibility that the IoT cameras we set up can be utilized to spy on us in our homes and places of employment.
How to Avoid Malware
Unless you are a target of interest for some reason, some basic security practices can go a long way to protect your devices. Hackers often look for the low hanging fruit, seeking to infect as many devices as they can with as minimal effort as possible. If you make it slightly more difficult for cybercriminals to exploit your devices, chances are they’ll pass you by and move on to the next victim.
Ensure that no matter what operating system you use, you apply OS updates as soon as possible, and make sure that all of your software is up to date and patched.
Installing software to protect your devices is recommended as well; as many of these programs will scan for and find new Malware on a consistent basis.
A little knowledge about safe browsing and the dangers of phishing can go a long way. Users are often seen as a weakness in cybersecurity, but you can use them to defend against Malware attacks as well. If you are still successful in removing the malware, get your pc to the nearest computer repair shop for a complete checkup.
Secure your router by changing its default password, and don’t allow it to be configured remotely. Basic firewalls can alert you to intruders, and examining logs can be a source of knowledge when it comes to network activity.
If you own a company or are the head of a family, be sure that everyone on your network is aware of the various types of Malware we discussed and the threats that they can face when they go online.