Malware – the combination of two words – malicious and software – is the term often used to describe a wide range of potentially dangerous and invasive code. The main malware categories include Trojan horses, viruses, worms, and ransomware. There are examples of malware targeted at all major operating systems, including those from Apple, Android and Windows, even Linux.
The problem with viruses
There is much more malware than viruses. Computer viruses are a specific type of malware with two specific characteristics. First, a computer virus can execute or execute itself. It does this by attaching to other programs ' s or by hiding in the computer code that runs automatically when certain types of files or programs ' s are opened. Secondly, a virus can replicate itself. This often happens within a targeted program or app within the device, followed by virus spread to other devices via emails, USB memory devices or a vulnerable network.
Although these technical differences are important for analysts, they are not for consumers. The important point for consumers is to realize that a narrowly defined computer virus is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more risks and vulnerabilities than just that.
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Trends in malware
Malware has been around for nearly as long as the IT era. Although there is no universal agreement about what the first malware was, two early examples are the Brain and the Morris Worm. The Brain was launched in 1986 by two Pakistani brothers. It was a self-replicating virus on a large floppy that promoted their computer repair service store. The Morris worm, introduced in 1988, was one of the first computer worms. It also resulted in the first criminal conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
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The four basic stages of malware
Impress / annoy – The earliest malware is designed to impress or annoy – or both. It was largely a platform for early hackers to show their technical skills and confuse the rest of the world.
Damage – Malware soon entered malicious mode with a few previous malware types that were used to brick infected devices or delete files. Although impressive – and very irritating – it was limited.
Steal – The profit motive quickly emerged when hackers realized that they could earn significant sums by extracting data from infected devices and then abusing it. This discovery has led malware to become a lucrative venture to become IT geeks. Types of income have had the entire range of credit card fraud, bank fraud, identity theft and ransomware.
track – The age of smartphones – always with people online – has withdrawn the trackers. Tracking can be legal, exist in a gray area, or be illegal illegally – depending on how trackers are added to the device and whether the person has agreed. Intrusive trackers that sniff user activities are linked to malicious advertising campaigns and streaming dubious advertisements to infected devices.
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Development and distribution of malware
Malware started out as a cyber bragging, often as a lonely wolf individual who showed his or her special skills. Then it became a gang of thieves, focused on a specific technical angle, such as hacking SQL databases and Point of Sales devices.
Malware as a service – As malware grew into a larger enterprise, it split into different roles and specializations. In particular, there were the real developers of the malware code, those marketing lists with stolen login data, and the people who tried out different marketing strategies and delivery mechanisms. From the point of view of a security analyst, we often see the same development of distribution, marketing campaigns and even A / B testing for malware such as Dridex and Locky that we would see for fully legal online products.
Malware as a government service – Government actors have taken a far too large position in the development and deployment of malware. Stuxnet malware was allegedly developed and used by the US / Israel to disable Iran's plutonium-producing equipment. Elements of this code were then integrated into other pure malware packages.
North Korea is believed to have had a major impact on damaging Sony studio files and the use of ransomware. Entities associated with Russia were behind the Petya and NotPetya ransomware. Some of the major industrial hacks, such as those at the Marriott, come from organizations affiliated with China. The leak of NSA zero-day exploits in the wild has resulted in various waves of malware and ransomware attacks.
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Trends in malware detection
Malware has been around for nearly as long as the modern computer – but its destructive power has increased exponentially since the days of the I LOVE YOU virus back in the dark middle ages of 2000. Incidentally, this malware is still circulating on the internet. Although the ability of malware to disrupt our online lives has grown, so do the various techniques for detecting malware and loving your device.
Signature-based detection – An early source of antivirus program ' s was signature detection where a unique code pattern or hash of a known malicious file is known and recorded. As soon as this signature is rediscovered, the file it contains can be marked by the antivirus.
As malware became more sophisticated, malware authors began using new techniques, such as polymorphism, to change their pattern every time their creation spread from one system to another. As such, this minimized the effectiveness of a simple signal detection. Researchers then supplemented this with heuristic detection that assesses the code on the basis of its behavior. When something unusual starts to work, it triggers alarm bells.
Cloud-based detection – Cloud-based detections shift the identification work from the individual device to the cloud. This frees up computer space for more productive tasks and enables security companies to hide their detection methods from cyber criminals. By adding AI-enhanced machine learning to the mix, security firms ' s can analyze and search malware much faster and in-depth than in the past, saving their manual ID work for new and emerging threats.
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Protection against malware
There are three primary elements to protect your device against malware.
a. Antivirus – Have a reputable security app that has passed a series of independent tests on your device. This is a basic starting point for malware protection. Moreover, a good security app also has a history with test results, so if you can look at a few test results.
b. updates – Malware loves finding a device with outdated software. Keep up to date with these threats by installing an updater. This takes responsibility for finding and installing the latest updates for the many apps on your devices.
c. YOU – As the user and owner of the device, you are the most important security layer. Look before you click on suspicious e-mail attachments. Is the sender's address correct? Are the links in the encrypted HTTPS? Does it feel correct? It's great to be suspicious – it can protect your device against malware.
Alexander Vukcevic is the director of Protection Labs & QA at Avira.
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