Understanding Malware Cyber Attacks: Symptoms, Prevention, and Solutions

Introduction

Cyber attacks can spell the end of a business. According to IBM, the Global average total data breach cost is $4.35 million. Even if a company can mitigate the financial factors of a breach, other elements impact a business.

The first step in avoiding cyber attacks is understanding how they work, their purpose, and adopting the necessary tools to prevent them. A standard tool cybercriminals use against their targets is malware.

Malware is software that disrupts, damages, or gains unauthorized access to a computer system. Cybercriminals will use various methods to access a system maliciously, and frequently malware is the tool they use to carry out their unlawful activities. Malware software, more commonly known as a computer virus, encompasses many specific attacks such as ransomware, spyware, command and control, and more. 

The main objective of malware is to take control of the victim’s computer without their knowledge and carry out various criminal activities, from intrusion to disruption and extortion, and outright theft.

Understanding Malware Cyber Attacks

Malware comes in different forms. The most common malware is viruses that can execute themselves and spread through other programs or files. Another form of malware is worms, which can self-replicate without a host program and typically spreads without interaction.

A trojan horse, which can be more sophisticated than your common virus and worm, is designed to gain access to a system. Once the trojan horse breaches a system, it executes its malicious operations. An extension of a trojan horse is a backdoor virus or remote access trojan. It secretly creates a backdoor into a computer system, enabling cybercriminals to remotely access it without alerting the victim or security programs.

Spyware is what you think it sounds like. However, this malware is sly as it operates without the victims’ knowledge and collects their information and data. There is also a rootkit, which obtains administrator-level access to the victims’ system. Once it has access, a rootkit gives cybercriminals root or privileged access to the system. 

Adware attacks track a victim’s browser and download history with the intent to display pop-up or banner advertisements that lure the victim into making a purchase. Finally, keyloggers track nearly everything a user does on their computer, from emails to keystrokes. 

Malware is a tool that infects systems, but the methods cybercriminals use to mislead their victims vary. For example, a well-known and costly process is phishing attacks. A spear-phishing attack is an attempt to acquire sensitive information or access a computer system by sending counterfeit messages that appear legitimate. Spear phishing attacks come in different forms. However, the most common phishing attacks are fake websites, impersonation, malware, smishing, and vishing. You can read more about phishing attacks here. On average, a malware attack costs a company over $2.5 million, which includes the time needed to resolve the attack. Beyond the financial losses, companies suffer reputational risks and data theft.

Diagnosing Malware Attacks

As we have extensively covered how malware attacks unravel, it is easy not to be aware that your system may be infected. However, there are symptoms of malware infection. 

Some of the most apparent signs a system has been infected with malware are slow system performance. Other common symptoms include unexpected freezing or crashing, annoying pop-ups, unusual error messages, fake virus alerts, programs running and closing without your consent, and ransom demands, to name a few. It’s important to note that a system may not present any of these symptoms and still be infected with malware, so diagnosing it is crucial.

The first important step to take that many people forget is updating your computer’s operating system and internet browser. An up-to-date operating system and applications are the easiest way to diminish vulnerabilities that may lead to malware attacks. If you believe your system is infected with malware, install a powerful antivirus application or security suite immediately. 

If you already have an antivirus tool installed, manually run an update to ensure your antivirus has the latest malware definitions, and then run a full scan. Ultimately, you can run an aggressive cleanup-only tool to remove the malware from your system.

Passwordless Technologies as Preventative Measures

As noted above, spear phishing attacks exploit vulnerabilities to enter a system. More often, spear phishing attacks will target password vulnerabilities. According to a report by Verizon, 81% of breaches result from weak, stolen, or misused passwords. 

Passwordless authentication is a login method that relies on other factors besides passwords ranging from login keys to biometric data such as a fingerprint or a facial recognition system. Passwordless technologies can prevent malware attacks by eliminating the need for weak passwords. Ultimately, there is less risk of malware infection.

One of the most known and secure is biometric authentication, which includes but is not limited to fingerprints and facial recognition. Biometric authentication is one of the safest and easiest-to-use passwordless authenticators because it relies on hack-proof user characteristics. Smartphones are widely adopting this method.  You can read more about passwordless technology here. 

Multi-Pass is a passwordless authentication method that’s secure, fast, and easy to use. Its digital wallet runs on a highly secure biometric card. You can learn more about Multi-Pass and address challenges and vulnerabilities associated with password-centered authentication.

Conclusion

All it takes is an unsuspecting victim and a weak password for a malware attack to cripple a business. Malware attacks are financially costly and can damage a brand’s reputation beyond repair. By eliminating the use and reliance on passwords, companies stand to remove the primary vulnerability in handling critical information and avoid the potential loss of revenue and damage to their reputation.

Learn more about how Kelvin Zero can help you and your business prevent malware and other cyber attacks.