Malware, short for malicious software, is a broad term often seen in headlines accompanying a company data breach or disrupted service. However, different strains of malware have been developed over the years to perform a wide variety of harmful activities.

In the next sections, we’ll look at how malware finds its way onto company devices and networks, and we’ll examine some of the different types that enterprises should be informed on. Read on to find out more.

How is malware deployed?

Company devices can be infected with malware for different reasons. Compromised applications containing malicious software may be installed by users who are unaware of what they carry, but perhaps the most common dropper is a phishing email. Malware may be disguised as a seemingly harmless DOCX file attached to a phishing message. The email will encourage the recipient to urgently download the file. If the user follows this instruction, the malware is installed on the machine.

Depending on the type of malware deployed, it may record the user’s keystrokes, observe their web interactions, steal data or spread to the company network, infecting all computers connected to it.

What is spyware?

Malicious software surreptitiously installed on user devices spyware can remain undetected for months by even the most advanced security programs. Developed by hackers to watch, record and report on user activity, it is often used as a reconnaissance phase for a larger cyberattack. It is especially useful to threat operators for stealing user credentials to gain access to sensitive system areas.

What is ransomware?

Many malicious operators have swapped out their tried-and-tested tactics for this lucrative attack form. Ransomware, sometimes called crypto-malware, locks data files and operating systems, making them inaccessible to their rightful owner. Ransomware gangs then request a payment in return for a decryption key. Double extortion methods have become the new normal for ransomware attacks, with threat actors stealing information while encrypting files. If the victim won’t pay up, the gang threatens to disclose the data.

What is a virus?

A computer virus is engineered to inflict harm on company devices. This malware can corrupt data files, entirely reformat hard disks and shut down an enterprise’s systems. Computer viruses can also be used to steal money and data, damage networks and devices and create botnets. A botnet is a group of interconnected enslaved devices that are used to form a wide range of attacks on enterprise systems, with device owners often oblivious that their computers are under another’s control. To spread, a computer virus needs a user to activate them.

What is a worm?

Unlike a virus, a worm needs no user to replicate. This type of malware penetrates networks using any vulnerabilities it can find. These standalone programs can then infect any other devices that are connected to it. Worms often drop payloads containing harmful code capable of deleting, stealing or altering data.

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