Malware is a terror no matter how you spin it. Some viruses might get crushed by a single knowing sweep of your antimalware software; still others might require a stronger hand to clean from your systems. Either way, no malware is ever good news. With that in mind, there are certainly some that are more damaging than others.
Each piece of malicious software attacks and damages in its own unique way, which is why updating your software is so important. Every patch and update adds new parameters to keep you protected against recent viruses, because as new malware is developed and unleashed, Whitehats (ethical hackers) and other computer security experts have to be just as active in creating new defenses.
Malware has been responsible for corrupted and lost files, dead servers, and ruined hardware since its creation. As IT departments help companies evolve and adapt alongside these digital threats, users are learning the importance of proactive security, like backups and disaster recovery plans. Part of that preparedness involves understanding the threats you’ll face.
Ransomware does exactly what it sounds like it does: it holds your computer for ransom. Hackers may encrypt your files or lock you out of your computer and demand money before they send you the decryption key or restore access. This might seem like an easy fix, to simply pay the ransom and get your files back but there’s no guarantee the cybercriminal will stay true to their word. Further, they often ask for exorbitant ransoms in untraceable bitcoin currency. On the other hand, if you fail to meet their demands they threaten to destroy your decryption key and keep you locked out.
The dangers of ransomware are real, but with developments over the past few years, computer security specialists have discovered ways to restore data previously locked by even the most vicious ransomware, CryptoLocker.
The sole purpose of this malware is to give hackers administrator-level access to your computer system, allowing them to take over your network or PC for any number of malicious purposes. Simply, rootkit malware “roots” itself in your system and attempts to conceal itself in order to avoid being picked up by any antimalware programs you have installed. This virus strikes by concealing itself and then running in the background. By remaining invisible to antivirus programs, it becomes nearly impossible to remove, resulting in a need to erase and restore infected hard drives.
Some malware lingers, leaving remnants that prove problematic to remove. This kind of virus infects systems with a multi-pronged approach, utilizing many kinds of malware in its attack. Unfortunately, once those attacks are detected and dealt with, you come to find that only a part of those viruses have been removed. What remains is enough to push your system back towards the source of the malware infection, instigating a cycle of infection-removal-infection.
Perhaps one of the most difficult kind of malware to deal with, firmware-based viruses are installed in hardware—your bios, HD/SSD, and other PC peripherals. Antivirus programs aren’t equipped to scan your computer’s hardware and firmware, so the firmware-based malware goes undetected. Oftentimes the only way to actually remove the infection is to replace the affected hardware.
Malware with a focus
Ransomware, firmware-based malware, and the other kinds of viruses mentioned above focused on methods of infection, such as how and when to strike. However, some malware is specifically tailored to achieve a goal besides damaging systems. They may be intent on stealing information or monitoring your activity.
There are viruses designed to steal login credentials, from your network, FTP, and email, to your banking, system, and e-commerce websites you’ve. Hackers use these viruses to obtain passwords and then to gain access to your accounts and information, sometimes for spam/phishing purposes. Occasionally their aims are higher and they may try to abuse accounts they’ve gained access to for free goods and services, or to steal identities.
As the name implies, keylogger malware focuses on logging keystrokes. This kind of Trojan monitors what you type, records it, and sends that information back to the hacker responsible. Interestingly enough, keylogging software is actually available commercially. It may be used by parents to monitor the internet activity of their children or companies to detect illicit use of their work computers.
Keyloggers can be designed to record every keystroke, or to be triggered when a specific action is taken, such as navigating to your email in the browser, or your bank’s website. Once there, the software can start recording keystrokes to obtain login information hackers can use or sell.
There are many other kinds of malicious software out there, and as the hackers become increasingly focused on profitability and the black market expands, these viruses will fall into the hands of criminals near and far. In an age where you now have to protect your mobile devices from the same kinds of dangerous cyber attacks, maintaining safe browsing habits and staying current on the latest security threats has never been more important.