In the 80s, anyone who owns a computer would inadvertently hear of the term anti-virus. They would be asked whether they would want to purchase an anti-virus application to protect their computer.
In the 2000s, a new term has emerged –malware. While computer salespeople today do not ask customers to purchase anti-malware software to protect their new purchase, understanding malware is essential to safeguard your investment.
Viruses and malware are malicious in nature. With these terms floating around, people are confused by them. While anti-virus is simple enough to understand, the term malware is a bit more vague. So, where does each term fits in the cybersecurity lexicon?
In this blog, we explain the difference and provide some clarity on the terminologies.
The word malware is a shortened version of the term “malicious software”. It is not a single piece of software but a category of software. Malware is essentially any software that is designed to gain unauthorized access to a computer for harmful purposes.
Below are some common forms of malware.
Viruses are just one variant of malware. A virus malware as its name implies not only affect the computer it downloaded on, once it has gained entry into a network, it will quickly propagate itself and affect other computers in the network
Adware derives its name the word advertisement and malware. This form of malware is closely associated with adverts, which prompts you to download something (i.e. a discount coupon, an informational guide). While downloading the gift, along with it, an adware malware is also downloaded.
The term “keyboard logger” may not be a term most people would be familiar. However, when you mention “spyware,” it immediately conjures images of someone being spied on, in this case, an application that keeps track of what you key into your keyboard.
Once spyware is downloaded onto a computing device, it operates quietly in the background. The spyware will start collecting information on what you type on your keyboard. This information is then periodically sent back to the cybercriminals, where they will sift out information of interest.
This method is typically used when trying to identify a person’s password.
Ransomware is malware that, once download, quickly encrypts critical files or even the entire computer. A ransom is then demanded. Only when the ransom is paid, the cybercriminals will then decrypt the affected files, restore a defaced website or release control of the compromised machine.
Wannacry and Petya were high profile ransomware that affected many organizations across the globe. Petya encrypted entire computer systems by overwriting the master boot record, rendering the operating system unbootable.
Trojan malware is named after the proverbial Greek Trojan Horse.
In the story of the Trojan Horse, after a 10-year-old siege of the City of Troy, the Greeks constructed a wooden horse. They left it outside the city walls of Troy and withdrew their army. The people of Troy thinking the horse was a form of tribute to them, brought it into their city walls. Unknown to them, there was a group of men within the horse.
In the cover of darkness, the men emerged from the underbelly of the horse. And before the citizens of Troy knew what was happening, they were run over by the Greeks.
A Trojan malware is similar to the Trojan Horse. However, instead of a horse, the “horse” is now legitimate downloads. Once an unsuspecting user downloads it, the Trojan malware will, along with the “horse”, be downloaded onto the user’s desktop.
Once the malware is in place in the network, it can start stealing confidential data, installing more malicious software, or even take control over the entire machine.
Worms are one of the most common types of malware. Like viruses, they spread quickly once downloaded. The difference between worms and viruses malware is that the latter requires human intervention to spread. A worm malware, on the other hand, is autonomous. A worm malware can automatically send out a mass email to quickly infect other computers.
As you can see from the above, many malware types can affect a computer. In today’s highly connected world, the chance of a malware infection is very high.
Hence a company needs to take proactive steps to educate its employees and put in place some baseline malware detection software.
Once a malware gains a foothold into your computer and network, it can be debilitating and sometimes even devastating.
We can help to reduce the presence of malware in your organization, shall we have a conversation?