5 Common Types of Malware & How You Can Remove Them

Malware, a shortened combo of the words ‘malicious software’ is a hot topic in cybersecurity these days. Not only has malware affected the safety and profitability of large corporations, it has made a damaging impact on the lives and machines of millions of computer users.

Malware can spy on your online activities, steal your data, take over your social media activities, compromise the functionality of your computer, and even take complete control of your machine. Besides accessing all of your files and the ability to complete tasks online on your behalf, a hacker who has gained root access to your machine via malware could also take over your webcam or microphone to peek into your personal life.

Yes, the ultimate level of creepy.

No matter what its motive, malware is something you don’t want to host on your computer for any amount of time. If infected with malware, finding it and removing it should be a top priority. Here we cover a few of the most popular and common types of malware to help you understand what malicious software is all about and some of its most common motives.

This little bit of cybersecurity 101 will also help you determine if you have malware, and offer some advice on how to remove malware if you are infected.

ADWARE

Adware is typically bundled with ‘free’ software downloaded from the Internet and essentially forces you to see ads that you otherwise would not see. Adware is not the most terrible of all malware, but it can be quite annoying and intrusive. It can display itself in the form of pop up ads or other sneaky ad insertions throughout your operating system.

Adware is a highly lucrative form of malware and serves to generate revenue by coercing you to click on the ads and make product purchases.

Similar to legitimate marketers, adware practitioners know that they will get the best results from showing highly targeted ads to their users. For this reason, adware often comes bundled with its even more intrusive cousin, spyware.

SPYWARE
Spyware is used to gain information about you- the consumer. That’s why it is often bundled with adware. It’s learns who you are as a consumer and assists the adware by telling it which ads you are most likely going to respond to, and which in turn will make them money. In order to learn about you, the spyware will often monitor your keystrokes, financial data logins, Internet activity and more. The more the malicious marketers know about you, the more they can profit from their devious malware.

Although not quite as harmful as other types of malware, spyware bundled with adware is generally bad news and should be removed immediately upon discovery.

VIRUSES AND WORMS

Probably the most classic type of malware is the harmful program known as the virus, and its sneaky sidekick the worm. While viruses are designed to infect legitimate software programs already running on your machine, worms act as stand alone entities and transmit themselves across massive networks in a slimy fashion. When effective, both can cause severe damage by exploiting files and shared databases, as well as spreading rapidly and infecting others.

TROJAN HORSE

Named after the legend in Greek mythology, Trojan horses are presented to you as a gift, a free software download of some sort, but in reality are far different than they appear. The Trojan itself is bundled along with the software gift- often sent in the form of a phishing email- and includes a convenient backdoor, allowing the Trojan access to your computer. Once installed, a Trojan horse can do anything from steal your passwords to take complete control of your machine. Trojan horses are the gifts that keep on giving, but not in any desirable way.

RANSOMWARE

Ransomware is spread like a computer worm and can cause you sudden restricted access to your own computer. It can hold your files hostage or temporarily encrypt them while displaying a message demanding a ransom in order for them to be released. While many have the ‘no way I won’t pay’ attitude, others are so desperate to regain their files they are left with no choice but to pay. The worst part about giving into the demands of ransomware is there is no guarantee your files will even be restored properly if you do pay.

In addition to practicing cybersecurity and avoiding malware in general, the threat of ransomware is just another of many reasons to regularly back up your files.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE MALWARE?

Here are some classic symptoms that can help to clue you in on whether you have been infected with malware.

  • You’ve noticed increased usage in your CPU
  • Your browser speeds are suddenly slow
  • You have problems connecting to networks
  • Your computer is freezing or crashing
  • You are finding that files are being modified or deleted
  • You have programs mysteriously opening or closing
  • You suddenly see strange files or programs that were not there before
  • You learn from friends that they are receiving strange emails or requests that you did not send

HOW TO GET RID OF MALWARE

The best way to remove malware is to install and run an anti malware program. Yes I know, you have heard you should avoid downloading software from the Internet, and it’s likely a simple search for anti-malware programs will provide a host of questionable options.My suggestion is to go for reputability, and only use download links that have been offered up by a trusted source (i.e. A trusted cybersecurity blogger sharing their love for a preferred program).

Lifehacker offers some advice with ‘The 5 Best Malware Removal Tools’ http://lifehacker.com/5227896/five-best-malware-removal-tools

Or PCWorld with ‘How to Remove Malware From Your Windows PC’: http://www.pcworld.com/article/243818/how_to_remove_malware_from_your_windows_pc.html

And since even Macs can get infected with Malware, Sophos offers some tips on ‘Removing Malware From A Computer Running Mac OS X’ https://www.sophos.com/en-us/support/knowledgebase/118117.aspx

Thanks for taking the time to learn about Malware. If you are looking for a more in depth understanding of cybersecurity or have interest in building a career in cybersecurity, please visit SecureNinja’s Course List