It is important that you keep your business safe from malware. Malware is any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network. It’s the collective name for a number of malicious software variants, including viruses, ransomware and spyware. Cybercriminals are becoming more and more sophisticated in their methods and cybercrime is on the rise, particularly in small businesses.
How Malware Causes Chaos
Before we can talk about how to keep your business safe from malware, you must first understand what malware is. Shorthand for malicious software, malware typically consists of code, developed by cybercriminals, that is designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to enable unauthorized access to a network. Read our data security tips for 20201.
Malware is typically delivered in the form of a link or file attachment in an email. The malware is executed when the email recipient clicks on the link or opens the attached file. The intent behind malware is to cause the greatest possible amount of disruption and damage. Moreover, malware causes chaos in a number of different ways.
By way of illustration, a cybercriminal typically demands that the victim pay a ransom to stop the attacker from publishing the victim’s data or perpetually blocking the victim’s access to it.
9 Types of Malware
A wide variety of malware types exist, including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, rogue security software, wiper and scareware.
A virus is malicious code that attaches to clean code and then lies in wait for an unsuspecting user or an automated process to execute it. For example, a cybercriminal might email an attachment that releases the virus into the victim’s computer system when they open it. In the process, the virus has the potential to cause unexpected or damaging effects, such as harming the user’s system software by corrupting or destroying data.
Worms start with one infected machine and then weave their way through the entire network, connecting to consecutive machines in order to continue the spread of infection. Worms are often transmitted via software vulnerabilities.
Sometimes, worms arrive as attachments in spam emails or instant messages (IMs). Once opened, these files then provide a link to a malicious website. Or, they automatically download the worm onto the victim’s computer. If the worm becomes installed by either of those two means, it silently goes to work and infects the machine without the user’s knowledge.
Worms can modify and delete files. Not only that, but they can even inject additional malicious software onto a computer.
Sometimes a computer worm’s sole purpose is to make copies of itself over and over again. The result is that system resources become depleted, such as hard drive space or bandwidth, by overloading a shared network.
In addition to wreaking havoc on a computer’s resources, worms can also steal data, install a backdoor, and allow a hacker to gain control over a computer and its system settings.
This type of malware hides within or disguises itself as legitimate software. Acting discretely, it breaches security by creating back doors through which other malware variants can gain easy access to the system.
Trojans are generally spread by some form of social engineering whereby a user is duped into opening an email attachment disguised as something innocuous (e.g. – a routine form to be filled in). Or, sometimes they’re encouraged to click on a fake advertisement on social media (or anywhere else).
This is why two-factor authentication (2FA) is a better means of email security than complex passwords. Eventually, cybercriminals will figure out your password. They have their methods. But 2FA puts another layer of protection between you and them.
Ransomware locks down networks and locks out users until a ransom is paid. Ransomware has targeted some of the biggest organizations in the world today, including the Colonial Pipeline and JBS USA (part of JBS Foods, one of the world’s largest food companies) — with expensive results.
But, ransomware is happening solely in large corporations. It is now also infiltrating small businesses at an alarming rate. That’s because cybercriminals know that many businesses went into the work-from-home mode when Covid-19 disrupted our lives and businesses. By the same token, they also know that home computer systems are typically secured in only a minimal fashion.
Ransomware is often spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments. It is also spread through “drive-by downloading,” which occurs when a user unknowingly visits an infected website, and then malware is downloaded and installed without the user’s knowledge.
Crypto ransomware, a malware variant that encrypts files, is spread through similar methods as well as through social media (for example, instant- messaging applications). In addition, newer methods of ransomware infection have been observed. Vulnerable web servers are any easy entry point through which any sophisticated hacker can gain access to an organization’s network.
Spyware is software with malicious behavior that aims to gather information about a person or organization. It then sends such information to another entity in a way that harms the user; for instance, by violating their privacy or endangering their device’s security.
Spyware enables a cybercriminal to obtain covert information about another person or entity’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from the victim’s hard drive. It is used by everyone from nation-states to jealous spouses to surreptitiously collect information and monitor the activity of people without their knowledge. Spyware can also be used to steal personal information, such as account passwords and credit card numbers, which can result in identity theft and fraud.
Adware, often called “advertising-supported software,” is software that generates revenue for its developer by automatically generating online advertisements in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process.
As Malwarebytes so aptly describes on the adware page of their website, here’s how it happens: You go online with your nice, well-behaved browser, only to see it fly into a virtual tantrum, as an onslaught of advertisements either pops up, slides in from the side, or otherwise inserts itself to interrupt and even redirect your intended activity. As a result, no matter how much you try to those windows, they keep buzzing you like flies at a picnic. That’s because your computer has become infected with adware. And just as your picnic food attracts the pests that come after it, money — or the revenue generated by uninvited ads — is what draws adware to your PC or mobile device.
7. Rogue Security Software
Rogue security software, also known as “rogue software,” has been a serious security threat since 2008. It is a form of malicious software and internet fraud that misleads users into believing there is a virus on their computer. The ultimate aim is to convince the user to pay for a fake malware removal tool that actually installs malware on their computer. Simply put, “scareware” manipulates users through fear and a form of ransomware.
So, in other words, rogue software is malware that tricks you into believing that it is a legitimate software program necessary for your computer’s security. Rogue security software designers make pop-up windows and alerts that look legitimate. These alerts advise the user to download security software, agree to terms or update their current system in an effort to stay protected.
Clicking “yes” to any of those scenarios will cause rogue software to be downloaded to your computer. Often, the rogue security software will tell you that access to your computer is blocked until you pay the rogue software developer a sum of money — a ransom.
In that way, rogue security software often works in tandem with ransomware for a double threat to you and your system.
A wiper is a class of malware whose intention is to wipe the hard drive of the computer it infects. It is a type of malware that erases the contents of the hard drive of an infected machine and then destroys the computer’s master boot record to make it impossible for the machine to boot up again.
Unlike typical cyberattacks, which tend to be for monetary gain (i.e. – ransom), wiper attacks are destructive in nature and often do not involve a ransom. Wiper malware may, however, be used to cover the tracks of a separate data theft.
Scareware is a malware tactic that manipulates users into believing they need to download or buy malicious, sometimes useless, software. It is a form of malware that uses social engineering to cause shock, anxiety, or the perception of a threat in order to manipulate users into buying unwanted software.
Most often initiated using a pop-up ad, scareware takes advantage of a user’s fear and coaxes them into installing fake anti-virus software.
Keep Your Business Safe from Malware
1. Protective tools
Protective software is the easiest form of protection to implement, as you can often “set and forget.” That’s because it is typically capable of managing and updating itself. Examples of protective software include firewalls, and anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software. Norton offers an all-in-one security suite that hunts for and eliminates all three malware variants.
Encryption is the method by which information is converted into secret code that hides the information’s true meaning. Encryption is a way of scrambling data so that only authorized parties can understand the information. In simpler terms, encryption takes readable data and alters it so that it appears random.
The science of encrypting and decrypting information is called cryptography. In computing, unencrypted data is also known as plaintext. Encrypted data is called ciphertext. Ideally, only authorized parties can decipher a ciphertext back to plaintext and access the original information.
A type of encryption called “asymmetric encryption” is a foundational technology in TLS (often called SSL), which secures millions of websites around the world, including ours here at EZnet Scheduler®. This is important if your website contains a login button for client access to your appointment scheduler or other software.
This is tougher to execute because of the element of human temptation when the words “Check out this cool website!” are seen on the internet or in an email or text message. Sometimes, malware comes in the form of malware disguised as malware protection, bearing the message “You’re not protected! Install this antivirus software immediately!” That’s why all businesses need to build cybersecurity into their company culture.
Periodic cybersecurity training that teaches employees how to avoid malware is a “must” for businesses of all sizes. As cybersecurity professionals will tell you, no one is safe from today’s sophisticated cybercriminals, especially small businesses, which are seen as being the most vulnerable. Here at EZnet Scheduler, we’ve built cybersecurity into our virtual company culture, including our EZnet Scheduler software. Our data security measures ensure that your customer’s data stays safe and secure.
Effective user guidelines, policies, continuing education on cybersecurity, and the right anti-malware programs can detect and stop email, web requests and other activities that could otherwise put your business at risk.