Malware is a pervasive problem for businesses of all sizes. It can steal sensitive data, disrupt operations, and cost thousands or even millions of dollars in lost productivity and remediation expenses.

As a business owner, it’s important to understand the various types of malware, how they work, and the steps you can take to protect your business.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different types of malware and how they can affect businesses. We’ll also provide tips and best practices to help you keep your business safe from malicious software.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Malware is software designed to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorised access to a computer system.
  • It is commonly spread through email attachments, infected websites, and removable media (USBs)
  • Signs malware has affected your business devices include random pop-up windows or alerts, slow computer performance, unfamiliar programs or icons, and unexpected crashes.
  • Prevent malware with regular system updates, antivirus & firewall software, strong passwords, and cyber security training.

What Is Malware?

Malware is a type of malicious software designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorised access to a computer system.

It is usually spread through emails, websites, and removable media like USB drives. Hackers use malware to steal data, delete files, and infect other computers with malicious code. It can also install programs designed to exploit computer systems and network vulnerabilities.

Malware seriously threatens businesses because it can cause data loss, decreased productivity, and financial losses. Cybercriminals also use malware to launch cyber-attacks against companies, allowing attackers to access confidential data and cause reputational damage.

Attackers could target your business for any number of reasons. Commonly, malware attacks are for financial gain, disrupting a business, or even for political reasons.

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How Does Malware Spread?

Malware spreads in various ways, including email attachments, infected websites, and removable media.

Email Attachments

Malware is commonly spread through email attachments. These attachments are usually disguised as legitimate files, such as PDF or Word documents. However, when opened the attachments contain malicious code that will infect the computer. It’s important for you and other users to be cautious about opening any emails or attachments that seem suspicious. That includes emails that appear to be from someone you know and trust.

Infected Websites

Malware is also spread through infected websites. Many websites have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain access to user data or install malicious code on their computers. It’s important for users to be aware of which sites they visit and to make sure they are using secure connections when accessing sensitive data.

Removable Media

Malware can also be spread through removable media such as USB drives, external hard drives, and CDs. These devices can contain malicious code that they transfer to a computer when inserted into a USB port or CD drive. To avoid this, users should only use removable media from trusted sources and scan all files with an up-to-date antivirus before opening them.

These are just some of the ways malware can spread to new devices. Businesses need to remain vigilant and take steps to protect their networks and data from malicious attackers. By installing security software, training employees, and backing up data regularly, businesses can stay ahead of potential threats and minimize the risk of a malware attack.

Types Of Malware

Here are some of the most common types of malware that could affect your business.

An image showing 6 types of malware that can affect businesses.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects a computer or network and holds files hostage until a ransom is paid.

The most common form of ransomware is cryptoviral extortion, which encrypts the victim’s files and then demands payment in order to decrypt them.

Once ransomware infects a system, it will often display a message informing the user that their data has been encrypted and that they must pay a ransom in order to regain access to their files. Ransom payments are typically requested in a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, which makes it difficult for authorities to track the source of the money.

Businesses are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks because they have more valuable data for which criminals can demand money. If a business’s data is held hostage, it can result in financial losses, decreased productivity, and reputation damage. In some cases, businesses may choose to pay the ransom if they cannot recover their data through backups or other methods.

However, current advice is that victims of ransomware do not pay the ransom.

Trojans

Trojans are malicious programs that act as legitimate software or documents. Once installed on the victim’s device, it can perform a variety of functions without the user’s knowledge or consent. It can log keystrokes, send out spam emails, steal data and more.

Because they are difficult to detect and identify, Trojans are one of the most dangerous types of malware. Hackers use Trojans for espionage, fraud, cyber-terrorism, and other malicious activities.

Banking Trojans

Banking Trojans steal financial information from businesses and their customers.

The primary purpose of banking Trojans is to gain access to online banking credentials used on online banking systems. These include:

  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Credit card numbers

Hackers also use bank Trojans to take control of a user’s computer or device, allowing the attacker to access confidential files and other data.

Like other malware, banking Trojans are spread through emails, phishing campaigns, and downloads from unsafe websites.

Once installed, banking Trojans can monitor web traffic and harvest financial information. They can also assist with launching Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on websites and networks.

Banking Trojans can devastate businesses, leading to data loss, decreased productivity, and financial losses. Because banking Trojans often target businesses that use online banking systems, a successful attack could also lead to significant reputational damage.

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Worms

Worms are a type of malware that can replicate and spread across networks, infecting other computers.

Worms can be hard to detect, as they operate quietly in the background. They are especially dangerous because they can spread quickly, causing widespread damage to businesses.

Like other malware, worms can steal data and access passwords. They can also send out spam emails and download malicious content onto other systems. In addition, worms can replicate themselves in order to avoid detection. This means that, once a worm has been released it can spread rapidly without any intervention from the user.

A famous example of a worm known as Conficker targeted the Microsoft Windows OS. Using advanced malware techniques, the worm spread to millions of government, business, and home computers in over 190 countries., making it one of the largest known worm computer infection events ever seen. Surprisingly, the worm is not thought to have done much damage, is it was never used for any specific purpose.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware installed on business devices that then tracks and monitors user activity, all without the user’s knowledge.

Sounds pretty sneaky right?

Hackers will use spyware for various purposes, including monitoring online activities, stealing business data, or tracking browsing habits.

Spyware is particularly dangerous for businesses when used to track employee activity, steal data, or gain access to confidential information. Cybercriminals may use spyware to monitor emails and other data, eavesdrop on conversations, capture confidential files, monitor keystrokes, and gain access to accounts and networks.

As well as being a serious threat to a business’s security, it can also lead to lost productivity and financial losses if confidential information is stolen or leaked, as well as reputational damage.

Adware

You’re probably already familiar with adware.

Adware targets computer users in order to display advertisements. It’s often installed on a computer system without the user’s knowledge, typically by downloading a free application, template, or software.

Companies will use adware to generate revenue from displaying ads, and often includes features such as tracking a user’s browsing habits and collecting data for targeted advertising.

Adware can range from relatively benign programs that show ads in an annoying way to malicious programs that can track a user’s personal information and transmit it to third parties without the user’s permission.

We most commonly see adware distributed through pop-up ads, banners, and search engine redirects.

Additionally, some forms of adware install automatically after clicking on a link in an email or even through drive-by downloads which occur when users visit an infected website.

Adware can be especially dangerous when it has the capability to track a user’s browsing activity and collect data that can be used for targeted advertising. This type of adware can track a user’s IP address, the pages they visit, the links they click, and even the searches they enter into search engines. In some cases, this data can be sold or shared with third parties without the user’s consent.

Furthermore, adware often forms part of a cybercriminals strategy to gain access to business information such as financial details and sensitive data. Cybercriminals can use such data for various fraudulent activities.

It is important for businesses to be aware of the dangers associated with adware and take steps to protect their systems.

How Do I Know My Business Has Been Infected By Malware?

There are several signs that your business devices are infected by malware:

  • Strange pop-up windows or alerts: Malware may display unwanted pop-up windows or alerts on your computer.
  • Slow computer performance.
  • Changes to your homepage or search engine: Malware may change your homepage or search engine without your permission.
  • Unfamiliar programs or icons on your desktop.
  • Unexpected or frequent system crashes.
  • Issues shutting down or starting up your computer.

If any of these issues are present on your business’s devices, it’s possible they are infected with malware.

It’s important to take action immediately to prevent further damage. You should run a malware scan, remove any detected threats, and consider installing anti-malware software to protect against future infections.

How To Protect Your Business From Malware

There are several steps your business can take to protect itself from malware:

  1. Install and maintain antivirus and firewall software: These types of software can help protect your computer and network from malware by blocking known threats and alerting you to suspicious activity.
  2. Keep all software up to date: Make sure to keep all software on your devices, including the operating system, web browsers, and any other programs, up to date. Software updates often include security patches that can help protect against malware.
  3. Use caution when opening email attachments and links: Be wary of opening email attachments or clicking on links from unknown sources.
  4. Implement strong passwords and use two-factor authentication: Use strong, unique passwords for all accounts and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. This adds an extra layer of protection by requiring you to enter a code sent to your phone or email in addition to your password when logging in.
  5. Educate employees about cyber threats: Make sure your employees are aware of the importance of cyber security and how to recognize and avoid potential threats.

By following these best practices, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to malware attacks.

Conclusion

Malware is a serious threat to businesses of all sizes. It’s important to be aware of the different types, as well as the various ways it can be transmitted.

Taking steps to protect your business from malware can help to minimise the potential damage it can cause. Utilise strong security measures to protect your business from malicious actors.

Additionally, staying up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and trends can help to keep your business secure.

If you’re looking to learn more about cyber security and how to safeguard your business, be sure to visit our cyber security services page. There you can find information on how we’ll help protect your business.

Taking action now can help to ensure your business is safe and secure.