Whenever we talk about security you will usually see us throwing the term malware around. But what exactly do we mean by malware? The official definition of the term ‘malware’ is the general term for software which is specifically designed to disrupt or damage a computer system. Its full name is ‘malicious software’ and it is what is says on the box – software with malicious intent. Malware is used to gain access to computers in order to damage them, take them over or gain access to sensitive information without the knowledge of the owner. There are many different types of malware, so in the first of a 2-part series on malware we explore the different types of malware out there and what they do.
There are thousands of types of malware out there with more being developed every single day, but in general they can all be slotted into one of 11 main categories.
Adware: Adware is both the most lucrative and least dangerous of all the malware types. Adware does nothing more dangerous than display annoying adds on your screen.
Spyware: Spyware usually goes hand in hand with adware. Spyware tracks your internet activities and computer usage in order to send more attractive adware back to your system.
Virus: Viruses are contagious and easily spread between machines. A virus is a piece of code that attaches itself to another piece of software and replicates itself whenever that software is run, eventually leading to significant speed and performance issues.
Worm: A worm is a common and inconvenient program, which replicates itself and destroys the data and files on your computer. In essence, the worm ‘eats’ your data until there is nothing left on the drive.
Trojan: Trojans are the most dangerous form of malware. These programmes are written with the sole purpose of discovering financial information, taking over your computers systems resources or creating a ‘denial of service’ attack in larger environments. A denial of service attack will make a machine or network resource (such as Yahoo or Google Docs) unavailable to those trying to access it.
Rootkit: This particular malware is the most difficult to detect and remove, and is likened to a burglar waiting in your attic until you aren’t home before letting the rest of their team inside. Rootkit malware is designed to give other information gathering malware access to your machines without you realising what it happening.
Backdoors: This type of malware very much does what it says – it opened a back door connection to your machine that will allow other malware and hackers direct access.
Keyloggers: Often seen used in detective dramas, keylogging malware records every single keystroke you type and sends it back to the source of the program. This helps hackers identify your usernames and passwords, bank details and other sensitive information.
Rogue Security Software: This type of malware is designed to mislead or deceive its users. It pretends to be a good and trustworthy program to remove malware infections, when in reality it is malware. Often it will turn off your real anti-virus software, which will allow more malware to come flooding through.
Ransomware: Ransomware is one of the more devious varieties of malware. If your machine is infected, then you will see a screen displayed claiming your machine has been ‘locked’. It will tell you that the only way to unlock your machine and restore function is to pay money. Even if you pay this ransom (which is usually in the hundreds of pounds) there is no guarantee that the malware won’t lock you out again, or even unlock the system in the first place. You should never pay this ransom, and instead focus on removing the malware.
Browser Hijacker: A browser hijacker changes the way your Internet browser works. It focuses on redirecting your browser from its natural search results and instead turning it towards the results the malware developer wants you to see. The intention here is to make money form your web surfing. Not removing this malware can be dangerous, as it allows the developers to track your web activity, including shopping or banking online. The results displaying might look harmless, but each search this malware is present allows more infections to move across to your machine.
Of course each malware infection is engineered slightly differently and with a different, sometimes very specific purpose in mind, but they will always fit into these categories. In our next post we will be talking about the most effective ways to protect your machines from becoming infected with malware, and if the worst should happen how to remove them. If you think you have malware on your system or would like to know more about the signs, get in touch for your free consultation.