Saturday, November 11, 2023

Malware Explanation - A Comprehensive Guide

Malware Explanation - A Comprehensive Guide

Malware is invasive software code that's designed to cause harm to computer systems and networks. It can steal data, infect files and devices, or cause a device to slow down. It can be spread through physical means like USB drives or infected attachments and on virtual platforms such as social media sites and instant messaging apps.

Computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, ransomware, and rootkits are examples of malware. The motives behind the malware can vary from making money off of stolen data to sabotaging operations or making a political statement. However, most cyber attackers target vulnerable systems to gain monetary or other resources.

Unlike the flu, which has seasons, there's no such thing as an "off" season for malware. It can infect your computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices all year round.

Once an infected program is installed, it will carry out the malicious action it was programmed to do. This can range from stealing sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details to hijacking your devices. In addition, malware can tamper with your system settings, download other programs, and perform various harmful actions. 

To avoid detection, attackers use evasion techniques that keep the malware hidden from antivirus tools and other software on the infected device. These include time delays (to lie dormant for some time) and system fingerprinting (to only execute on specific system configurations). 

Question: what is malware? Ultimately, Malware is a term used to describe any app or software that harms, compromises, or exploits programmable devices and services. Cybercriminals can use it for many purposes, including stealing personal information, committing financial fraud, or disrupting business operations. It is about exploiting your systems at the cost of your security and productivity.

Types of Malware

Like the human flu, malware infects and disrupts your devices. Cybercriminals use it for various reasons, including making money, spying on you, and stealing critical information or resources. Unlike the flu, which typically has a season, malware can infect your devices anytime. It can attack your system via phishing emails, infected files, unpatched software and hardware vulnerabilities, USB flash drives, or social media sites.

Many types of malware are designed to infiltrate your system, cause damage or disruption, or steal data without you knowing it. Adware, spyware, bots, trojans, worms, rootkits, and ransomware all fall under the malware umbrella.

Some malware is self-replicating, spreading from one infected device to another. The first modern viruses, known as worms, spread on Apple and IBM systems in 1982. More recently, adware and spam have bombarded users on social media and instant messaging apps.

Malware attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, using evasion techniques to avoid detection by antivirus and other security products. These include time delays, which lie dormant for some time before activating; obfuscation methods, such as encoding or hiding code syntax; and anti-sandbox techniques, which detect when it's being analyzed in a security lab and delay execution until after the sandbox closes. Additionally, attackers can embed malware in images or file formats.


Malware can invade and damage computer systems, networks, tablets, and mobile devices. It can steal or encrypt data, turn off core functions, and spy on activities without a user's knowledge or permission. Its motives range from making money to sabotage work to making political statements. Infections spread just like the common flu, and strategies to prevent malware infections have grown ever more sophisticated, with attackers using time delays, evasion techniques, device fingerprinting, and other strategies to stay ahead of security researchers.

Small business owners can minimize the impact of an infection by following NCSC's guidance on protecting cyber assets. For individuals, NCSC offers advice on keeping personal devices safe from malware.


Malware can attack various devices (smartphones and tablets) running any operating system. In addition, malware can exploit a wide range of software and web browser vulnerabilities that could allow them to gain a foothold on your network or individual device. 

To minimize the impact of infection, NCSC has developed guidance for larger organizations and individuals that details steps to prevent infection and advice on dealing with a malware infection if it does happen. Smaller organizations should also refer to guidance specifically written for them. 

Some common indicators of malware infection include a device or system performing slower than usual, a sudden loss of available storage space due to bloated malware settlers, or a mysterious increase in Internet activity. Some types of malware communicate with attackers' command and control servers to download additional malware or instructions. 

This back-and-forth activity, known as 'distributed denial of service' (DDoS) or 'crypto-jacking', increases network bandwidth usage and can lead to decreased available processing power, a common trait of today's most dangerous malware strains. Aside from causing performance issues, some forms of malware steal data and other valuable resources

Computer viruses, worms, and spyware are among the most familiar types of malware. However, they're just the tip of the iceberg regarding this bewildering beast. Many attackers create malware to steal critical information like credit card numbers and login credentials, while others use it to spread from device to device or disrupt operations.