Malware Discovery: 101 - Softrams

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Nick Manning
August 16, 2021 506 views

Digital screen showing 'System Hacked' message

Malware Summary:

You probably hear it all the time, “make sure your computer is protected from Malware.” But what is Malware, and how can we prevent it from penetrating our protected systems? To keep things simple, just think of Malware as any type of malicious activity that can cause harm to a system. Malware is technically an umbrella term that encompasses and takes shape in many forms, as described below.


There are also many definitions of a virus. First, let’s think about a virus in human terms. Viruses can be transmitted via a handshake, hug, or simply coming into physical contact with a surface that an infected individual may have touched. Theoretically, a computer virus works much in the same way, as a virus requires a host program (i.e. the human in this example) and user action to transmit from one system to another. Then, a computer virus attaches bits of code to other files.


Not the kind you may dig up out of the ground, but again, there are some similarities here. For example, the planarian flatworm can survive if it is split in two, meaning that it can self-replicate. A worm in malware terms is a highly malicious, self-replicating program that can spread on its own. Worms can be transmitted through clicking links on malicious websites, file-sharing, and email attachments, just to name a few. When we compare worms to viruses, note that a virus needs to attach itself to something like a host program, whereas worms do not need to attach themselves to anything, making worms that much more dangerous.


I love history, and I even used to be a history teacher, so let’s use a historical example first before we dig into the technical details. The Trojan War has been told in many versions, but the comparison always works. Most historians agree that the Trojans thought that they had won the war when they found a wooden horse at the site of the Greeks, which was thought to be a gift from the Gods, due to the Trojan’s recent victory. Many also believe that Greeks were hiding inside, and after the horse mysteriously found its way into the gates of Troy, all-out war was relished upon the Trojans, and this would eventually lead to the cities demise. So how does this relate to Trojans regarding Cybersecurity?

A Trojan attack utilizes deception and social engineering to ultimately trick users into running what they think are benign computer programs that hide malicious actions. Many threats stem from the infamous Trojan attacks, including, but not limited to Backdoors, Spyware, and Trojan Downloaders. The attacks are usually very deceptive, and end-users can easily be manipulated into contracting the Trojan-style malware.


Spyware is another commonly seen form of Malware that is also installed on a connected device without end-user knowledge. Moreover, Spyware is one of the more common forms of Malware, and unfortunately, Spyware can steal sensitive information and damage networks. In fact, there are at least four main types of Spyware, which include adware, tracking cookies, system monitors, and the Trojan. The most common way that your machine can be infected with Spyware is due to accepting a pop-up without reading it first. In addition, downloading software from an unreliable source will often lead to Spyware infection. By design, Spyware is difficult to find and recognize on your devices. If you notice that your machine is lethargic and crashes unexpectedly, or you get multiple pop-ups even when you’re not online, then chances are you have been impacted by Spyware.


What’s the Deal with Ransomware?

If you have tuned into the news lately, you’re probably not surprised to see that Ransomware is running rampant, not just in the United States, but all around the world. But what is Ransomware, and what can I do to protect myself and my assets?

What is Ransomware?

According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, Ransomware is described as, “an ever-evolving form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering any files and the systems that rely on them unusable. Malicious actors then demand ransom in exchange for decryption.” But wait, what is Malware? Remember, Malware can be described simply as malicious software that can cause harm to any system or computer. There are various forms of Malware, but for this discussion, it is simply important to know that cybercriminals can use Malware to encrypt files. Think of encryption as the art of making information unreadable or unusable, and the only way to decrypt information is with a key. But how do I get the key? Well, this is where cybercriminals make their money! In most cases, a Ransom is demanded, and to obtain the key to decrypt the files, a monetary fee must be paid to the cybercriminal.


Mitigation Techniques:

CISA recommends the following precautions to protect users against the threat of ransomware:

  • Update software and operating systems with the latest patches. Outdated applications and operating systems are the targets of most attacks.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • Back up data regularly. Keep it on a separate device and store it offline.
  • Follow safe practices when using devices that connect to the Internet.
  • Read Good Security Habits for additional details.



As a community of online users, we must also make sure that ALL end-users are well-trained, as human error is the biggest culprit when it comes to security. Therefore, all of us here at Softrams play an integral role in maintaining an excellent Cybersecurity posture. The collaborative environment certainly makes it easier to know that you can always ask the Security team about information related to online threats. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

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