How to Win the Fight against Malware Attacks
Cybersecurity attacks are the greatest threats to all organizations across the world. Every year businesses face diverse forms of malware attacks, with one hacker attack occurring every 39 seconds.
From marketing to sales, healthcare, financial, insurance, IT, and the public sector, every company must actively prioritize solutions that can effectively protect against these threats. We need to focus on advanced cyber-training and education solutions to create an effective defense system against cyber-crime. However, many organizations lack effective training solutions, even as over 95% of cybersecurity breaches happen because of human error.
This article will discuss the diverse forms of malware attacks and offer insights on emerging cyber threats and malware protection strategies.
What is Malware?
Malware software is an umbrella term for all kinds of malicious software. It is any software developed to damage or infiltrate servers, networks, or systems and act against the interests of the user. Cyber attackers create such software systems for malicious activities such as stealing, encrypting, and deleting financial, personal, or business data. Malware can also be used in the operations of businesses as well.
The creation of malicious software stretches as far back as the first computers. Early versions were written for Macintosh and Apple II but became widespread as MS-DOS and IBM-PC systems began to dominate. In 1986, Farooq Alvi Brothers created a boot sector virus called (c)Brain, the first IBM PC virus.
Since then, attackers have been creating diverse forms of malicious software, and every year, their systems and processes evolve with the rapidly changing digital landscape.
Types of Malware Attacks
Malware attacks can happen across all sorts of operating systems, devices, physical and virtual servers. Identifying the different forms of malware attacks is vital to efficiently implement the right solutions to detect, recognize, and remove them—these Malwarebytes range from spyware, adware, computer viruses to worms and Trojan horses. Recently mobile ransomware has been growing at an unprecedented speed and is expected to accelerate as BYOD policies and remote work become the norm. Here are some of the most widespread malware attacks alongside emerging cybersecurity threats we must prepare against:
- Viruses. Viruses are often interchanged with malware, even as malware is an umbrella term for all forms of software used for nefarious purposes.A computer virus is a malware program that can modify a victim’s file so that when users open that file, it executes the virus. Viruses are also capable of infecting other files, making it difficult to clean up and remove them.
- Trojans. Trojan malware programs have replaced computer worms as a new choice of weapon for hackers. Trojans often masquerade as a legit program or can be hidden within a legitimate program.
- Exploit kit. Exploit kits are malicious toolkits that cybercriminals use to search for software vulnerabilities within target mobile devices, computers, servers, or websites. These kits come with pre-written codes, templates, and other resources used by an attacker with limited coding knowledge.
- Adware/Malvertising. Adware is a manual program that can expose the user to unwanted and malicious advertising. The attacker will purchase credible advertising space on reputable websites with malicious codes within the ad. When users interact or click on these ads, they might start receiving unwanted advertisements or content on their screen when browsing the web.
- Malicious websites and drive-by-downloads. When the drive-by download is a download that occurs when the user visits a malicious website hosted for malware attacks. Visiting the website alone is enough for the malware to begin looking for vulnerabilities within the user’s browser, and using any security gap, it injects malware.
- Spyware. These kinds of malicious software track web-browsing habits or the way users use their systems. For example, keylogger spyware tools can record keystrokes typed, hoping to capture sensitive data.
- Bots. Bot owners use spam or drive-by downloads to infect computers and sell services to this herd of bots.
- Encrypting ransomware. This is the most current alpha predatory money-making malware attack. Perpetrators may send such malware to a broad network of users. When users accidentally download them, it automatically encrypts their essential files. Perpetrators will offer to encrypt for a ransom. What’s worse is that even if the user manages to remove the ransomware, their files will remain encrypted.
- Worms. Worms are the most extended existing malware programs. They have been around longer than the internet, going as far back as Creeper on the Arpanet in 1971. Other notable examples include: I love you worm, Morris Worm, MS Blaster, etc.
- Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. This kind of attack requires an unsecured or poorly secured, typically a public Wi-Fi router. The hacker will scan the router using a unique code to find weaknesses such as poor password use. When the attacker finds the vulnerability, they insert themselves between the user’s computer and websites the user visits to intercept sensitive information such as payment card data and passwords.
- Man-in-the-browser (MitB) attack. In this case, the attacker installs malware onto the browser of the victim without her knowledge. The malware will then record data sent from the user to particular websites. The malware will be designed to collect data and transmit it to the attacker. Although this attack is similar to man-in-the-middle attacks, the attacker does not need to be physically near the router.
How To Detect And Recognize Malware
Besides human negligence, also bear in mind that attackers can exploit all kinds of vulnerabilities. These can range from security defects in software to insecure design or user error and providing too much privilege access to all users.
There are diverse ways malware can operate without notifying of their presence.
In reality, the most dangerous of malware attacks attempt to operate in silence and undetected. It is one reason why many organizations may not detect a data breach for nearly six months. These kinds of malware attacks often lead to credit card fraud and identity theft. However, there are some tells.
- Interruptions from spam and pop-ups: when users receive too many pop-ups, emails, and advertisements, it might be a sign of malicious software. These programs may attempt to hijack, redirect or capture personal information even with ads that look reputable.
- Redirections to unexpected web pages. When users observe that they are being redirected to surprising web pages, it might indicate malware attacks.
- Slower computer performance: Malware attacks can also slow down computers, networks, or servers. This requires real-time monitoring to observe such unexpected spikes or drops in traffic.
Malware Protection: How to Proactively Safeguard against Malware Attacks
Malware attacks will continue to be a risk as long as we are connected to the internet. This is why we need to invest in robust malware protection solutions to protect against malware attacks. For individual use, implementing anti-malware software alongside software might be enough. However, with the ever-evolving attack surface and approach, businesses require enterprise-wide malware protection strategies to cover all critical areas and combat malware attacks.
Here are some essential things to do about malware attacks?
1. Update and Implement Software patches
We must strive to implement all software updates. This will help us repair security gaps we might never have known existed on the personal and business level. Besides running all software updates as soon as available, we must also follow other security suggestions such as security patches provided by our OS providers.
2. Have an incident response plan
Over 77% of firms globally have no Cybersecurity incident response plan, even as 54% have experienced at least one malware attack in the last 12 months. This is an alarming situation as an incident response plan must be a top priority.
An essential aspect of this incident response plan is to create backups of all invaluable data. An incident response plan can provide insights on security gaps and help us make the proper fixes on time. With a robust incident response plan in place, it becomes easy to get back online as quickly as possible.
3. Invest in comprehensive anti-malware programs.
Investing in robust malware protection programs is critical to protect against malware attacks. These tools include intrusion prevention systems, firewalls, URL filtering, malware. There are also solutions focusing on endpoint security, such as anti-spam, malware analysis, and anti-virus solutions. However, we must leverage malware protection strategies that would encompass cloud, endpoint, and network:
- Concerning networks, we need tools that can prevent, analyze and detect malware activities in real-time. These tools include intrusion prevention systems, log monitoring, firewalls, URL filtering, and sandboxing.
- For Endpoint security, we need solutions that will encompass all devices we use. These tools will protect against external threats, and they include anti-malware, anti-spam, and anti-virus solutions.
- Cloud presents a unique opportunity to harness enormous cost-savings, agility, and scalability. However, we must also harness cloud-based security infrastructure to protect incoming and outgoing traffic, sustain complete visibility and run compliance audits to secure containers and expose data leaks. Cloud-based security solutions offer the advantage of up-to-the-minute protection against threats.
4. Threat intelligence
Education is at the forefront of combating malware attacks. Many successful malware attacks begin from manipulating human emotions prompting victims to take impulsive actions without thinking. This is why we need to consistently train on all new tactics and real-work examples of malware attacks.
Fortunately, security experts and threat intelligence communities abound to help us access up-to-date information on emerging malware attacks.
Understanding the different forms of cybersecurity threats and malware attacks is something we can never ignore. For any business to enjoy continuity and success, being proactive about malware attacks is highly important.
This is especially important as the COVID-19 pandemic and the high level of panic and confusion it brings also create avenues for malware attacks. The COVIDLock , a ransomware attack, comes to mind. Users received malicious files and URLs promising more information about the disease. Once installed, the COVIDLock would encrypt data from Android devices, with instructions that users pay 100$ to gain access.
However, malware protection is only one aspect of the greater puzzle of building a secure space. Therefore, the best anti-malware solutions must tightly integrate cloud, network, and endpoint security environments alongside global threat intelligence to remain ahead of attackers and protect our data, applications, and users everywhere. We must never focus on one aspect; security demands a holistic approach.