Cybersecurity: What You Should Know About Malware

Cybersecurity program by Netserver Africa Digital Hub

Malware are an international concern and is to be taken seriously by anyone who owns or as much as uses an electronic device that has the ability of connecting to the internet or has the ability of file sharing with other devices. 
Malware is a portmanteau for malicious software; so join us as we dig deep into today’s lecture. All photos and materials used are copyrights of their respective owners.

A malware is simply an acronym meaning “Malicious Software” and is nowadays, used as an umbrella term to describe a software programmed to disrupt computer operations, or gain access to a computer or computer systems without permission. The term “malware” has become an umbrella name as it now includes programs such as: computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malicious programs. Malware may be obvious and simple to identify or it can be very stealthy and almost impossible to detect.

Malware programs are used by cyber criminals to target and infect user’s computers, networks and other user end devices.

Malware Program Method. Photo Credit: CISCO/NETACAD
Malware Program Method. Photo Credit: CISCO/NETACAD

Types of Malware

A virus is malicious executable code attached to another executable file(such as a software program). Computer viruses usually spread in one of three ways: from removable media; from downloads off the Internet; and from email attachments. Viruses can be harmless or they can be destructive, such as those that modify or delete user data.

A Spyware is malicious program that enables an attacker to obtain information about a user’s computer activities.
Spyware often attaches itself with legitimate software or with Trojan horses. Many shareware websites are full of spyware.

Worms are malicious computer programs that spread themselves by independently exploiting vulnerabilities in networks. Whereas a virus requires a host program to run, worms can run by themselves and will usually slow down computer networks.

Trojan Horse
Trojan horses are malicious programs that exploit the privileges of the user that runs it. A Trojan horse differs from a virus because the Trojan binds itself to non-executable files, such as image files, video/audio files, or games.

Ransomware is a malware that holds a computer system, or the data it contains, to ransom. This is usually until the victim makes a payment. Ransomware usually works by encrypting data in the computer with a key unknown to the user. Payment is in most known cases, the attacker’s goal and once the victim pays, the attacker supplies a program that decrypts the files or sends an unlock code.

There are several other threats that are constantly being dealt with by experts and computer users such as: SEO poisoning, Browser Hijacker, Phishing(fraud related rather than malware related), Spam(fraud related rather than malware related, though, malware may be the ultimate end in some cases), Pharming, Grayware and SMiShing, Adware programs, Vishing, Whaling and lot more.

Defense Against Malware

Use of Antivirus and Antispyware Program
An antivirus(AV) program is a software program that is used to guard against the threat of a virus program. An antivirus program works by scanning a device against the signatures of known virus.
A signature is like a fingerprint. It identifies the characteristics of a piece of malicious code.
On the other hand, an antispyware program is a software program that guards against the threat of a spyware program.

Here is what wikipedia has to say about today’s antivirus programs:
“Antivirus software, or anti-virus software (abbreviated to AV software), also known as anti-malware, is a computer program used to prevent, detect, and remove malware.
Antivirus software was originally developed to detect and remove computer viruses, hence the name. However, with the proliferation of other kinds of malware, antivirus software started to provide protection from other computer threats. In particular, modern antivirus software can protect users from: malicious browser helper objects (BHOs), browser hijackers, ransomware, keyloggers, backdoors, rootkits, trojan horses, worms, malicious LSPs, dialers, fraudtools, adware and spyware. Some products also include protection from other computer threats, such as infected and malicious URLs, spam, scam and phishing attacks, online identity (privacy), online banking attacks, social engineering techniques, advanced persistent threat (APT) and botnet DDoS attacks.”

Use of up-to-date software
Most malware hide behind legitimate software to carryout their own objectives and constantly upgrading software will help to remove any unwanted “attachments” to the previous software version.

Here is what the CISCO Networking Academy has to say about the use of up-to-date software:
“Many forms of malware achieve their objectives through exploitation of vulnerabilities in software, both in the operating system and applications. Although operating system vulnerabilities were the main source of problems, today’s application-level vulnerabilities pose the greatest risk. Unfortunately, while operating system vendors are becoming more and more responsive to patching, most application vendors are not.”