Cyber-attacks have become the new generation of warfare and ever so often we come across the news of cyber attacks and Malware attacks are one such form of cyber-attack.
Malware is a blanket term for different kinds of cyber-attacks such as viruses, Trojan horses, worms, bots, spyware, adware, ransomware, keyloggers, mobile malware, etc.
In this digitized world, we as a common citizen too come across such attacks without our knowledge and end up losing our precious and private files or data. So, In this article, we will be discussing such attacks and how they can be prevented.
What is Malware?
Malware is intrusive software that is designed to damage and destroy computer systems. Malware is a contraction for “malicious software.” It is a file or code, typically delivered over a network, that infects, explores, steals, or conducts virtually any behavior an attacker wants. Since malware comes in so many variants, there are numerous methods to infect computer systems.
Each type of malware infection has its method of attack from stealthy and sneaky to subtle like a sledgehammer. The motives behind malware vary. It can be about making money, sabotaging your ability to get work done, making a political statement, or just bragging rights.
Although malware cannot damage the physical hardware of systems or network equipment, it can steal, encrypt, or delete your data, alter or hijack core computer functions, and spy on your computer activity without your knowledge or permission.
Malware is the collective name for several malicious software variants, including viruses, ransomware, and spyware. Shorthand for malicious software, malware typically consists of code developed by cyber attackers, designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to gain unauthorized access to a network.
Malware is typically delivered in the form of a link or file over email and requires the user to click on the link or open the file to execute the malware.
Malware has been a threat to individuals and organizations since the early 1970s when the Creeper virus first appeared. Since then, the world has been under attack from hundreds of thousands of different malware variants, all with the intent of causing the most disruption and damage as possible.
Distinguished Cases of Malware Attacks
Each type of malware has its unique way of causing havoc and mostly relies on the actions of users. Some strains are delivered over email via a link or executable file. Others are delivered via instant messaging or social media.
Even mobile phones are vulnerable to attack. Organizations must be aware of all vulnerabilities so they can lay down an effective line of defense.
Let us have a glance over some of the most famous and threatening malware attacks, worldwide.
1. LockerGoga, Ransomware, 2019
LockerGoga is a ransomware that hit the news in 2019 for infecting large corporations in the world, such as Altran Technologies and Hydro. It’s estimated that it caused millions of dollars in damage in advanced and targeted attacks.
LockerGoga infections involve malicious emails, phishing scams, and also credentials theft. LockerGoga is considered a very dangerous threat because it completely blocks victim’s access to the system.
2. Emotet, Trojan, 2018
Emotet is a trojan that became famous in 2018 after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defined it as one of the most dangerous and destructive malware. The reason for so much attention is that Emotet is widely used in cases of financial information theft, such as bank logins and cryptocurrencies.
The main vectors for Emotet’s spread are malicious emails in the form of spam and phishing campaigns.
3. WannaCry, 2017
It was the biggest attack the world had ever seen and resulted in great aftershocks in the worlds of business, politics, hacking, and the cybersecurity industry.
WannaCry hit over 300 organizations spread across a huge 150 countries. It was so large that even after the kill switch was found, the virus continued to terrorize all systems and data it had hitherto come into contact with.
Estimates put the total cost at over $4 billion, with the UK’s NHS alone suffering over £92 million worth of damage. The attack was traced to the Lazarus Group, which has strong links to North Korea, but an air of mystery still clouds the details of what exactly happened.
4. Bad Rabbit, 2017
Bad Rabbit was a ransomware attack that spread via drive-by attacks. In a drive-by ransomware attack, a user visits a website, unaware that it has been taken over by hackers.
In most drive-by attacks, all that is required is for a user to visit a page that has been compromised in a way. Bad Rabbit asked the user to run a fake Adobe Flash installation, thereby infecting the computer with malware.
5. SamSam, 2015
Its creators are very particular in choosing their targets. In short, those most likely to pay to get their data back, such as hospitals and universities.
The ransoms demanded are much higher than the marketplace average. SamSam ransomware uses security vulnerabilities to obtain access to the victims’ network; alternatively, it utilizes brute-force tactics against weak passwords.
Once in the network, the cybercriminal uses a combination of hacking tools to advance their privileges until they reach the domain admin account.
6. CryptoLocker, 2014
CryptoLocker was another Trojan that terrorized the web back in 2013/14. It was spread via phishing emails. Like many viruses, it worked by encrypting the victim’s files and the hackers then demanded a ransom.
Eventually, it was taken down by various bodies such as the FBI and Interpol in Operation Tovar. It has since been difficult to estimate the economic damage, as the figures for people who paid the ransom appear to be vastly different depending on sources; nonetheless, it ran to many millions of dollars.
7. Mydoom, 2004
MyDoom started by sending spam junk mail via infected computers and hitting several large tech corporations, including Microsoft and Google.
Mydoom utilized a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDS), which has only become more common in the years since. Some estimates claim it infected up to one-quarter of all emails that year a horrifying figure.
8. ILOVEYOU, 2004
The ILOVEYOU virus shut down the email servers of several major corporations, including Microsoft and Ford. After just ten days, ILOVEYOU had affected around 45 million users and caused approximately $10 billion in damages.
The scale, speed, and damage of ILOVEYOU have led many cybersecurity experts to regard it as the first truly global, large-scale attack, and an introductory precursor to the new millennium and the dangers we face.
Prevention From Malware Attacks
Malware attacks do no work without the most important ingredient i.e., YOU!
The two most common ways that malware accesses your system are the Internet and email. So basically, anytime you’re connected online, you’re vulnerable.
Malware can penetrate your computer when you surf through hacked websites, view a legitimate site serving malicious ads, download infected files, install programs or apps from unfamiliar providers, open a malicious email attachment, or pretty much everything else you download from the web on to a device that lacks a quality anti-malware security application.
Ergo, here are some preventive measures one should follow to avoid any malware attack:
I. Install Anti-Virus & Anti-Spyware Software
Anti-virus and anti-spyware programs scan computer files to identify and remove malware. Be sure to keep your security tools updated. Immediately remove detected malware. Audit your files for missing data, errors, and unauthorized additions.
II. Use A Firewall
A firewall is another layer of protection that gives you more robust security of your devices and network. A firewall acts as a barrier between the internet and your IT infrastructure, blocking many types of malware attacks and other malicious activities (both inbound and outbound).
They come in hardware and software varieties, although many organizations use both. So, if you’re wondering how to prevent malware attacks, this is a good way to do it.
III. Keep Software Updated
No software package is completely safe against malware. However, software vendors regularly provide patches and updates to close whatever new vulnerabilities show up.
As a best practice, validate and install all new software patches. Regularly update your operating systems, software tools, browsers, and plug-ins. Implement routine maintenance to ensure all software is current and check for signs of malware in log reports.
IV. Limit Application Privileges
A hacker only needs an open door to infiltrate your business. Limit the number of possible entryways by restricting application privileges on your devices. Allow only the application features and functions that are necessary to get work done.
V. Implement Email Security & Spam Protection
Email is an essential business communication tool, but it’s also a common malware channel. To reduce the risk of infection, scan all incoming email messages, including attachments, for malware. Set spam filters to reduce unwanted emails. Limit user access to only company-approved links, messages, and email addresses.
VI. Use Encryption to Secure Data In Transit
Cybercriminals use every possible opportunity to hijack your data, including the time when it is in transit. The conversation between the website and server, the email correspondence with outsiders, and the internal correspondence of the organization can be intercepted and used by the bad guys for their malicious purposes.
VII. Use Email Security Tools like S/MIME Certificates to Protect Sensitive Messages
Keeping your email data secure is a concern for every business. An email signing certificate or S/MIME certificate is a PKI-based tool that enables you to exchange digitally signed and encrypted emails with other S/MIME certificate users. It also ensures that recipients know it’s secure, legitimate, and arrived unaltered.
VIII. Beware of Phone Call Scams
Cyber scams can occur online or over the phone. Fake tech support scams continue to rise, according to the FBI’s IC3 Report 2020. These scams are an effective way for cybercriminals to get unsuspecting users to download malware onto their devices.
They can and will say virtually anything to make you trust them and reveal personal information or download something dangerous. You should never give your details to any unknown caller or click on any links sent by them.
IX. Download Files, Software & Tools from Official Sources Only
This brings us to our last item on the list of ways on how to prevent malware attacks. Downloading software or files from dodgy websites and stores is often a source of malware.
If your infected device connects to a network, then you’re giving cybercriminals a way to gain access to your network. There, they can move laterally to try to find other vulnerable devices to infect or sensitive information they can steal.
This is why every company should ensure that the software should come from reliable sources.
A cybercriminal can attack you from any side, anywhere, anytime, and anyhow. They use different types of malware and deployment tactics to infect your devices and networks.
This is why having strong cyber defenses and cyber-aware employees and users is critical. By following strict preventive measures and educating users, we can reduce the chances of malware attacks & scams.