We’ve all heard of Malware, but what is it? What does it mean? How does one get “Malware”?!
Malware is a term used to shorten the words “Malicious Software” and put in simple terms, is any type of software that is designed to damage, disrupt or discover concealed information.
The way in which malware can be delivered depends on the attack vector – a term used to describe the ways hackers gain access or control to a system or network. There are many attack vectors including phishing emails, pop ups, text messages, Whatsapp or Viber messages or basically anything that asks the user to undertake a voluntary action.
Some of the more common types of Malware include:
- Worms – which are spread through software vulnerabilities or can be used as bait in phishing attacks (no pun intended!). When a worm has found a home on your computer, it infects the machine and can spread through your network undetected. They can possess the power to modify and delete files, self-replicate, steal data, install software allowing further vulnerabilities among other things.
- Viruses – typically attached to an .exe file or a word document, a virus requires an infected computer to work. Most people are probably aware that a .exe file extension from someone you don’t recognise is likely something nasty, but some people mightn’t know there are dozens of other file types that have the same effect. A virus can lay dormant in your system until it is remotely activated and can also self-replicate.
- Ransomware – denies or restricts your own access to your data. Typically someone who uses ransomware demands something in return for the release of your data, (often crypto-currencies given they can’t be traced back to an IP address). Experience tells that paying doesn’t guarantee you get your access back – in fact by paying you are likely to end up on a list somewhere on the darkweb and labelled a “payer”, inviting even more attacks in the future. You may recognise the name “WannaCry”, a ransomware attack that spread to over 150 countries and 200,000 computers in a single day. The damage is unquantifiable, but reliably estimated between $500,000,000 and $1b USD.
- Bots – A bot is an infected computer controlled remotely by a hacker, often referred to as a “zombie computer”. As futuristic as it sounds, a bot can be used to launch more bot style attacks on other computers and become part of a gang of bots called a botnet. Some botnets can include millions of devices and spread undetected. Frightening of all, botnets can gain access to your webcams, computer microphones, data and anything connected to your computer.
- Trojan Horses – A malicious program that presents as a legitimate file, but once downloaded allows entry into your network. Once inside, you’re a likely target for botnets, or have your data taken, deleted or held for ransom.
- Spyware – As you’d suspect, it does just that, spies on you. It can collect data on your online activity, collect personal information and passwords used for sensitive tasks such as online banking.
- Social Engineering – is any act that influences a person to take an action that may not be in their best interest. The most common Social Engineering example are targeted phishing emails impersonating internal staff mostly for the purpose of redirecting payment of funds to a third party.
To help combat the ever evolving threat of these types of attacks, Cyber Insurance has been a rapidly growing insurance market around the world over the last 5 or so years. At the forefront of Cyber Insurance and the wider technology sector is Technology Insurance Brokers – a specialist division of McLardy McShane South East. TIB is the leader in the tech industry, and a specialist in the Cyber Insurance markets. If you would like to discuss your cyber exposures or are in the IT industry looking for an industry expert, please feel free to get in touch.