What is Malware? Am I at Risk?

Unfortunately, malware is a hot topic these days. SMBs are a target for the bad guys, and your data could be at risk.

So let’s make sure we know what malware is, what forms it can take, and how to mitigate these risks.


Malware is a piece of software designed to cause damage to a computer, server, or network of computers – this is the umbrella term for malicious software.


A computer virus modifies the system files of the host computer to execute malicious code and infect other files. This is the only form of malware that modifies other files on a computer. Viruses can be attached to emails and then downloaded by the end user.


This type of malware encrypts data in an information system and demands payment in exchange for regaining access. These types of attacks have increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic, think 72% or more. However, many ransomware variants refuse to unencrypt data and some even delete the files after ransom is paid. Ransomware is often spread through spam emails.


This malicious software looks and behaves like legitimate software but contains malicious code. The most common entry point of a trojan is from pop-up banners on websites that indicate that the user’s computer is infected with viruses and needs antivirus software to clean it up. The “antivirus software” user download contains malicious code designed to gain backdoor access to systems, steal sensitive data, or spy on user or network activities. The important thing to remember about trojans is that the user must take some action for this to take root in the computer.


Spyware tracks the activities of the user on the infected computer including keystrokes, passwords, pin codes, payment-related information, personal messages, and other identifiable information. This can come in the form of adware – a malicious advertisement designed to force clicks from users – spoofing emails, and freeware – bundled with other software. Spyware can infect a device when a user agrees to the terms and conditions of a legitimate software program – so always read the fine print!


Worms are able to replicate themselves in different computers in the same network as the infected computer. Software backdoors, vulnerabilities in operating systems, and flash drives all provide opportunities for worms to gain access. Once a worm has gained access, it will replicate itself, spreading from device to device, with no action from the end user. These worms can then be used to initiate a DDoS attack, steal data, or give attackers control over the system.


Bots are hybrid forms of malware, often originating in spam messages, than can execute automated tasks through remote instruction. Many bots are used for legitimate purposes, but can also be appropriated for nefarious actions. A large set of these bots creates a botnet, a swarm of bots, attacking a number of systems in sync, making them capable of large-scale attacks.


Now what

  • Understand the risks
  • Educate yourself and employees on malware and prevention strategies
  • Build your security stack
  • Stay up to date on cyber criminal’s attack methods
  • Contact PremierePC today