Magda On Cyber
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Magda On Cyber

What is Malware, and Can you Detect it?

Malware is a type of software that is designed to damage or disable computers and computer systems. Malware can include viruses, worms, trojans horse, ransomware, spyware, adware, and other malicious programs.

Malware can be very harmful to your computer and can cause a lot of damage. Malware is usually installed on a computer without the user’s knowledge or consent. It can be spread through phishing emails, infected websites, or by downloading infected files or applications. Malicious software can also be hidden in legitimate software updates or downloads.

Once installed, malware can steal sensitive data such as passwords, credit card numbers and personal information. It can also interfere with normal computer operations and damage files or programs. Malware can even block access to your computer or internet connection.

What is a virus?

Viruses are a sort of malicious software that attaches itself to another program (such as a document) and has the ability to multiply and propagate when a human first executes it on their computer system. A virus needs a “host” program to attach itself to in order to spread from one system to another.

Consider the following scenario: you get an email that has a harmful attachment, inadvertently open the file, and a computer virus is subsequently installed on your machine. It can tamper with data, delete files or infect entire systems. The term “virus” is often used interchangeably with “malware,” although there are some distinctions between the two. Malware is a catch-all term that encompasses all malicious software, including viruses, spyware, trojan horses, rootkits and more.

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What is a worm?

Worms are classified as a sub-type of virus. A virus is a code which has potential to copy itself and infect a computer without user intervention, while a worm is a code which has potential to spread itself and cause damage. Unlike viruses, worms do not need to attach themselves to any program or document in order to replicate and cause damage.

What is a trojan horse?

A trojan horse is a malware that tricks users into downloading and opening it by appearing to be a benign file or program. Once opened, the trojan horse can then infect the user’s computer with other viruses or spy on their activities.

Trojan horses are often spread through email attachments or downloaded files, and can be very difficult to detect and remove. Some common signs that your computer may be infected with a trojan horse include strange pop-ups, slowed performance, and random files being created on your hard drive without your knowledge.

What is a ransomware?

Ransomware is one of the most destructive malware. It allows attackers to encrypt your files and demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. In some cases, attackers will also threaten to delete or release your data unless you pay up.

The attack begins usually when an unsuspecting user opens an email attachment, clicks on a link, or downloads a file from the internet. The ransomware then encrypts the user’s files and displays a message informing the user that their files have been locked and demanding payment in exchange for release of the files.

Ransomware has become one of the most common and profitable forms of cybercrime, with victims paying millions of dollars in ransoms every year. In recent years, ransomware attacks have targeted businesses as well as individuals, causing widespread damage and disruption. These attacks can be incredibly damaging to both individuals and businesses. If you are hit with ransomware, you could lose access to important files and data, and even face fines or lawsuits if sensitive information is leaked.

What is spyware?

Spyware is a type of malware that can install hidden programs on a victim’s computer to collect passwords, financial information or other sensitive data. Once the spyware has been installed, the attackers can access the victim’s computer remotely and often without their knowledge.

Spyware is usually installed through email attachments or by websites that are infected with malicious code. Once the spyware is installed, it can be very difficult to detect and remove. Victims may not know anything is wrong until they start seeing financial statements for purchases they never made or passwords they never set up.

What is adware?

Adware is a type of malware that can be installed on your computer without your knowledge. It is designed to display advertising content on your screen, often in the form of pop-up ads, and can be very difficult to remove once it is installed. Adware is not only annoying, but can also pose a serious security risk if it collects sensitive information about you or your online activities.

Cyber criminals may use adware to deliver other types of malware, such as spyware or ransomware, to your computer. They may also use adware to collect data about you that can be used for identity theft or other fraudulent activities.

Do all anti-virus solutions detect malware?

Not all anti-viruses detect malware. In fact, many malware programs are designed to evade detection by traditional anti-virus software.

Some cyber criminals will even create “Trojan Horse” programs that appear to be legitimate anti-virus software but are actually malicious.

In fact, many standard anti-virus programs are unable to effectively detect and remove malware from a computer system. However, there are some specialized anti-malware programs that can be very effective in detecting and removing malware. Those, are usually behavioral based.

Behavioral-based anti-malware systems are a newer generation of security software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect and protect your devices from malware. Traditional signature-based anti-malware compares the code of suspect files against a database of known malware signatures. If there’s a match, the file is considered malicious and blocked. However, as new malware is constantly being created, signature-based systems can only protect against known threats. unrecognized threats can slip through.

In contrast, behavioral-based anti-malware looks at how files behave on your devices to determine if they’re safe or not. This approach can detect both known and unknown malware, as well as zero-days.

The best estimate number of new malware is around 360,000 — although range estimates go from a low of around 100,000 to a high of over 1 million. The vast majority of these are probably not particularly sophisticated or dangerous and many will be variations on existing malware. But a sizeable minority will be serious threats created by organized cyber crime gangs and very talented individuals. The numbers have been increasing steadily for years and are unlikely to show any signs of slowing down any time soon.

What is the difference between an anti-virus and an anti-malware?

There is a lot of confusion around the difference between an anti-virus and an anti-malware. Both are important tools in protecting your computer from malicious software, but they work in different ways.

An anti-virus is a program that protects your computer against viruses. An anti-malware is a program that protects your computer against malware, which is a broader category that includes viruses, spyware, and adware.

They are not the same.

What happens when you are infected?

When you are infected with malware, your computer is essentially taken over by someone else. They can use your computer to do anything they want, including stealing your personal information, or using your computer to attack other computers.

When you are infected with malware, your computer may start to run slowly or improperly. This is because the malware is intrusive and can take up a lot of resources on your system. Additionally, it may damage or delete files, making it difficult to use your computer normally. In some cases, you may need to reinstall your operating system to get rid of the malware completely.

Can my phone be infected with malware?

Android and iOS devices can be infected with malware.

For example, Android devices can be infected with malware if you download an app from an unofficial source (such as a third-party app store), or if you open a file that’s been sent to you in an email or text message.

iOS devices can also be infected with malware if you download an app from an unofficial source, but the risk is even lower than it is for Android devices because iOS is much more tightly controlled than Android.

In other words, there are fewer ways for users to accidentally install apps that contain malware on their iOS devices.

It is recommended not to jailbreak or root your phone !

For one thing, jailbroken devices are more vulnerable to malware and other malicious attacks. This is because you’re essentially bypassing the security measures that are in place to protect your device. Additionally, any tweaks or modifications you make to your system could potentially lead to stability issues or even brick your device altogether.

The same applies for your Android device. Rooting your Android phone puts it at risk because you’re essentially opening up the phone to any security threats that are out there. By rooting your phone, you’re giving yourself administrative access to the entire system, which means you can change whatever you want and install whatever you want. And since Android is an open source platform, that means there are a lot of people who are looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the system so they can gain access to your data.

So if you’re not savvy about computer security, or if you don’t know how to protect your phone from malware and other online threats, then rooting your Android phone is not a good idea. It’s much safer to just leave it as is.

Photo by Ed Hardie on Unsplash

What to do to protect yourself against malware?

There’s no single answer to this question because the best way to protect yourself against malware depends on the specific threats you’re facing and your own personal cybersecurity needs. However, here are some general tips that can help you defend yourself against malware attacks:

1. Keep your operating system and software up to date. Cyber criminals often exploit known vulnerabilities in outdated software to install malware on victims’ computers. By keeping your operating system and applications up to date with the latest security patches, you can close these potential entry points for attackers.

2. Use a trusted security solution that is behavioral-based. Anti-malware software can detect and remove malicious files from your computer before they have a chance to do any damage.

3. It’s important to be careful when downloading and installing any kind of software, especially if you’re not familiar with the company or website. Only download software from trusted sources, and always be sure to read reviews before installing anything new on your computer.

While no one can guarantee that you’ll never be a victim of malware, following these tips and working with a cybersecurity professional can help reduce your risk.

Remember, the best way to protect yourself against malware is to constantly update your security software, use strong passwords with Multi-Factor Authentication, and be aware of the latest threats.

Have you ever been a victim of malware? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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By Magda Chelly

Chief Security Officer | TEDx Speaker | Author & Keynote Speaker | IFSEC Global Top 20 Cybersecurity Influencer | Entrepreneur | PhD, S-CISO, CISSP, Cert SCI (General Insurance)

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Dr Magda CHELLY, CISSP, PhD

Dr Magda CHELLY, CISSP, PhD

Cyberfeminist | Entrepreneur | Former CISO | PhD, CISSP, S-CISO | CoFounder @R3sp_Cyb3r | @womenoncyber | Documentary The Dark Web on @myCanal