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  • 03 April 2024
  • 5 min read

What are the common types of malware?

What is malware? What is the goal of a malware attack? And, what are the 15 most common types of malware?

Despite the best efforts of CISOs, SRIs and DPOs, the spectre of malware still looms large over organisations and their employees. Posing significant threats to both individuals and organisations, cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated in their methods.

As a result, it is imperative for cyber security decision-makers and employees alike to fortify their defences through comprehensive awareness and training initiatives.

In this article, we delve into the realm of malware, exploring its various forms, deployment tactics, and the crucial role of cyber security awareness and training in mitigating these pervasive threats.

What Is Malware?

Malware, short for malicious software, encompasses a broad category of software programs designed to infiltrate, disrupt, or damage computer systems and networks. From insidious viruses to stealthy spyware, malware manifests in myriad forms, each with its own nefarious objectives.

What is the Goal of a Malware Attack?

The motivations driving malware attacks are as varied as the forms they take. Identity theft, financial data exfiltration, and the perpetration of massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are among the primary objectives sought by cybercriminals. Moreover, the rise of cryptocurrency has fuelled a surge in cryptojacking and cryptomining malware, enabling threat actors to surreptitiously harness victims' computing resources for illicit gain.

15 Most Common Types of Malware

  1. Viruses: Viruses are malicious programs designed to replicate themselves by attaching to legitimate files or programs. Once activated, viruses can execute harmful actions, such as corrupting data, disrupting system functions, or spreading to other devices via infected files.
  2. Botnet Malware: Botnet malware harnesses a network of compromised devices (bots) to execute coordinated attacks, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assaults or spam campaigns. Cybercriminals wield botnets to amplify their capabilities and orchestrate large-scale attacks against targeted entities.
  3. Worms: Worms are self-replicating malware that propagate across networks, exploiting vulnerabilities to infect interconnected devices. Unlike viruses, worms can spread independently without requiring user interaction, making them particularly virulent threats to network infrastructure.
  4. Infostealers: Infostealers, also known as information stealers, clandestinely harvest sensitive data from compromised systems, including login credentials, financial information, and personal details. These stealthy malware variants are frequently deployed in targeted cyber espionage campaigns to exfiltrate valuable intelligence.
  5. Trojans: Trojans, aptly named after the legendary Trojan Horse, masquerade as legitimate software to deceive users into unwittingly installing malicious payloads. Once infiltrated, Trojans grant cybercriminals unauthorised access to compromised systems, enabling a range of malicious activities, from data theft to remote control.
  6. Ransomware: Ransomware encrypts victims' files or locks them out of their systems, demanding a ransom payment in exchange for decryption keys or restored access. These insidious attacks can cripple organisations, causing data loss, operational disruptions, and financial devastation.
  7. Mobile Malware: Mobile malware targets smartphones and tablets, exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile operating systems and applications to compromise user data or hijack device functions. With the proliferation of mobile devices in both personal and professional spheres, mobile malware poses a significant threat to individuals and organisations alike.
  8. Adware: Adware inundates users with intrusive advertisements or redirects web traffic to affiliate sites, generating revenue for cybercriminals through deceptive advertising schemes. While often viewed as a nuisance, adware can compromise user privacy and degrade system performance if left unchecked.
  9. Wipers: Wipers are destructive malware designed to irreversibly erase data or render systems inoperable, causing widespread disruption and data loss. Unlike traditional ransomware, which seeks financial gain, wipers aim to inflict maximum damage without the possibility of recovery.
  10. Spyware: Spyware covertly monitors users' activities, capturing sensitive information, such as keystrokes, browsing history, and personal communications. Often deployed for espionage or surveillance purposes, spyware compromises user privacy and exposes sensitive data to unauthorised third parties.
  11. Rootkits: Rootkits are stealthy malware that conceal their presence by subverting system functions and evading detection by security software. By gaining privileged access to system resources, rootkits enable persistent, clandestine access for cybercriminals to carry out malicious activities undetected.
  12. Keyloggers: Keyloggers record users' keystrokes, capturing login credentials, sensitive information, and other confidential data entered via keyboard input. These surreptitious surveillance tools are commonly used in credential theft, identity fraud, and espionage operations.
  13. Fileless Malware: Fileless malware operates without leaving traces on disk, residing solely in memory to evade traditional detection methods. By exploiting legitimate system processes and vulnerabilities, fileless malware can execute malicious actions while remaining undetected by antivirus software.
  14. Cryptojacking/Cryptomining: Cryptojacking malware hijacks victims' computing resources to mine cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, without their consent. By siphoning processing power and electricity, cryptojacking compromises system performance and incurs additional operational costs for affected individuals and organisations.
  15. Hybrid Malware: Hybrid malware combines elements of multiple malware types to create sophisticated, multifaceted threats with enhanced capabilities. By leveraging diverse attack vectors and techniques, hybrid malware poses formidable challenges for traditional cyber security defences, requiring comprehensive detection and mitigation strategies.

How Cyber Security Awareness and Training Can Mitigate the Risk of a Malware Attack

In the battle against malware, education is our most potent weapon. By cultivating a culture of cyber security awareness and imparting targeted training programs, organisations can empower employees at all levels to recognise and thwart potential threats. From identifying suspicious emails to practicing safe browsing habits, instilling sound cyber security practices fortifies the human security system, bolstering defences against malware incursions.

Comprehensive cyber security awareness and training initiatives offer numerous benefits, including:

  • Heightened threat awareness
  • Improved incident response capabilities
  • Enhanced adherence to security protocols
  • Reduced susceptibility to social engineering tactics

By partnering with The Security Company (TSC), organisations can harness industry-leading expertise and tailored solutions to elevate their cyber security posture. Our customisable awareness and training campaigns are designed to engage and educate employees across diverse departments, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to safeguard sensitive data and thwart malware attacks effectively – whilst keeping content and communication relevant to your organisation and your employees.

Written by
Nas Ali
Cyber security and awareness content creator focused on emerging threats and the next wave of cyber security risks like AI, deepfakes and tech 4.0 initiatives in order to build towards a more secure organisational culture.
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