Malware has been around since computers’ early days and is not going anywhere. But what is malware? And why should we care? This guide will help clarify those questions if you’re new to cybersecurity.
From viruses to worms and backdoors, we’ll break down the evolution of malicious software in simple terms that anyone can understand.
The early days of malware
You may think that malware is a new problem, but it’s been around since the earliest days of computing.
Malware has evolved from simple viruses that infected floppy disks to sophisticated worms like Conficker and Stuxnet that target industrial control systems. In those early days, malware was more of a nuisance than anything else. A computer virus would cause your screen to go fuzzy or your hard drive to crash when you open an infected file.
But as computers became more complex and people began using them for sensitive tasks like online banking or medical records storage, malware began taking on more dangerous forms.
Growing malware utility is a problem
Today’s hackers are armed with advanced tools for spying on users. Culprits can:
- Control their victims’ webcams and microphones
- Steal passwords
- Hijack control over a computer remotely
- Install ransomware software that locks up your operating system until you pay money (which will likely be spent by scammers rather than going toward helping victims)
- Send spam emails with malicious attachments disguised as invoices or bank statements
- Spread viruses through email attachments sent by organizations such as hospitals or schools.
The rise of viruses
The first known computer virus was released in 1982. Originally designed as a practical joke, the “Elk Cloner” virus infected Apple II computers and displayed an image of a flying elk with a message: “It is very lonely in the binary world.”
Since then, viruses have evolved into much more dangerous malware- a type of malicious code designed to cause damage or interruption to computers and networks. Viruses spread by infecting files and programs on your system, which one can pass on to other users through email attachments or shared storage drives.
They’re different from worms (programs that replicate themselves) and bots (automated programs that perform online tasks). There are also rootkits (malicious software hidden in legitimate programs), Trojans (which appear harmless but hide malicious functions), and backdoors (hidden entrance points into your computer). Plus, don’t forget ransomware (malicious software that locks up files until you pay money).
Worms, bots, and botnets
- Worms are self-replicating programs that can spread to other computers without user intervention. They don’t require human interaction, so they’re often called “zombies” or “bots.” Some examples include Code Red and Slammer.
- Bots are programs that run automated tasks on behalf of their owner. A human operator usually controls them remotely, but some bots may have been designed to act independently like worms. If you see a program communicating with other servers without your knowledge, it’s likely a botnet.
Trojans, rootkits, and backdoors
Trojans, rootkits, and backdoors are examples of malware that can do damage to your system.
Trojans are malicious programs that masquerade as legitimate software to trick users into installing them. Once installed on a computer’s operating system, the Trojan will copy itself into memory and execute simultaneously with the OS. Unfortunately, that means it has access to all of your personal information, which can then be stored or sent off to another party for use in attacks against you or others.
Rootkits work by hiding themselves from view on a system so they can’t be detected by antivirus software or other security tools. The goal of these rootkits is not only to hide from detection but also to gain administrative access over systems such as Windows Local Security Authority Subsystem Service. Gaining control allows attackers to take over complete control of an infected machine and do whatever they want with it. That includes stealing data off personal computers or taking over industrial processes like power plants.
Lastly, we have backdoors. These allow attackers remote access to a computer without needing any password or user interaction.
Ransomware can be devastating to a network. Therefore, you must learn how ransomware works and protect against it.
Your first line of defense against ransomware should be your antivirus software. Ensure it has the latest definitions installed and is up-to-date on its scans to detect threats before they cause damage.
If your network gets hit with ransomware, there are several ways to get rid of it before severe damage occurs. Keeping a data backup is mandatory, though!
Malware is not new, but it has quickly evolved.
As technology advances and people become more reliant on their devices, the threat of malware grows. Malware is defined as software connected with malicious intent, usually to steal data or cause damage to a device or system.
Malware has become more sophisticated and dangerous as time goes on. But unfortunately, it has also grown into a global problem for individuals and businesses.
Malware is a problem that has existed for years and continues to evolve. Therefore, predicting the next iteration of malware or how it will affect us is difficult.
However, we can be confident that it will continue to be an issue if people want to use computers without taking proper security precautions.
None of the information on this website is investment or financial advice. CryptoMode is not responsible for any financial losses sustained by acting on information provided on this website.