by peter

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Malware Explained

Risk

Risk Rating: CRITICAL
Likelihood: 5/5
Impact: 5/5

Causes

  • Inadequate perimeter defenses

  • Poor, ineffective or missing endpoint protection

  • Lack of monitoring

Malware Overview

Malware (malicious software) is a program or code that is created to do intentional harm to a computer, network, or server. Cybercriminals develop malware to infiltrate a computer system discreetly to breach or destroy sensitive data and computer systems. Common types of malware include viruses, ransomware, keyloggers, trojans, worms, spyware, malvertising, scareware, backdoors, and mobile malware.

What you need to know about Malware

The key to removing malware from your device is installing and running next-generation antivirus software. Upon detecting malware, your endpoint protection solution can help identify and remediate malicious artifacts left behind from malicious activity.

For maximum efficacy, it’s crucial to keep your antivirus and endpoint protection software updated so that it can stay ahead of constantly evolving attacks.

For most businesses, deploying a breach prevention solution or platform that continuously monitors for attacks will be the first line of defense. This can also be achieved through your Security Operations Center where a XDR agent is in use. Here are a few more tips to help you and your organization minimize the risks of a malware attack:

  • Keep your software updated: Set up automatic updates on all your devices because outdated software is more vulnerable to malware attacks.
  • Stay cautious and practice user vigilance: Anytime you are online you are vulnerable. Be wary of pop-ups, advertisements, and suspicious websites or links. Do not click on links in emails, mobile text messages, or social media messages sent from unknown users.
  • Use virtual private networks: VPNs allow you to go online safely, securely, and anonymously so your data and privacy stays protected.
  • Be wary of email attachments: Email phishing is one of the most common malware attacks. Never open emails from unknown senders or click on their attachments or images.
  • Only download apps from official app stores: Downloading trusted apps on your devices decreases your risk for malware.
  • Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication
  • Don’t lend out your devices to others
  • Stay educated: Learning more about malware will keep yourself and any endpoint users aware of the risks involved while on the internet.

How Malware infections happen

No matter how well you try to avoid malicious software infections, you’re likely to run into newer, more innovative variants at some point. When you do, advanced endpoint protection is your best defense.

Advanced endpoint protection uses a unique and integrated combination of methods to prevent and detect known malware, unknown malicious software, and fileless attacks. These methods include machine learning, exploit blocking, behavioral analysis, and blacklisting.

Traditional Antivirus is simply no longer effective to detect malware.

Signs You Have a Infection

Signs and symptoms of malware can be obvious or discrete. Here are a few common signs that may indicate you have aninfection:

  • Slow computer
  • Very frequent ads and pop-ups, especially if they appear in unexpected places
  • Battery drains rapidly
  • System crashes
  • Sudden loss in disk space
  • Browser settings change on their own
  • Browser redirects on its own
  • Unfamiliar apps appear on mobile device
  • Increase in system’s internet activity
  • Disabled antivirus product
  • Lost access to files or computer
  • Deleted files
  • Contacts receive strange messages from you

Malware Attack Sources

Malware can come from any source, so the best approach is to assume malware is coming from everywhere. The most common infection path is from attachments in emails. Typically the first stage, called the “loader” could be a macro or some malicious code embedded in an image or some other document. Common sources include:

  • Downloading infected files as email attachments, from websites or through filesharing activities
  • Clicking on links to malicious websites in emails, messaging apps or social network posts
  • Visiting compromised websites, aka drive-by downloads, viruses can be hidden in HTML, thus downloading when the webpage loads in your browser
  • Connecting your device to infected external hard drives or network drives
  • Operating system and application vulnerabilities provide security loopholes, backdoors and other exploits
  • Social engineering attacks, such as phishing scams, trick victims into providing sensitive information or access to personal and work systems through customized attacks that often masquerade as legitimate organizations reporting fake emergencies to push victims to act quickly and without question
  • Connected peripherals, smart devices and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices can act as vectors, or access points, or they can be hijacked and controlled remotely by the hacker