Types of cyber attacks: malware

11.07.2016 |

Episode #3 of the course Cyber security for small business by Cat Paterson


This is primarily a collective term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, and other malicious programs. It can take the form of executable code, scripts, active content, and other software.


Here’s a bit more explanation of these types of malware:

• Viruses, worms, and trojan horses, in layman’s terms, are pieces of malicious code used to infect your PC or laptop. Viruses are usually attached to a file (e.g., a .exe executable file) and are passed between computers by email, but they only damage files if executed. Worms are malicious code that can travel without human interaction via information sharing on your system. Trojan horses look innocent enough, like useful software, but once downloaded, they can delete files or damage your operating system.

• Ransomware effectively holds your digital data or access hostage until a payment is made to the criminal.

• Botnets use your PC or laptop as part of a group of computers to bombard another website with spam emails or huge amounts of data with the intent of putting the website temporarily out of commission or stealing personal information on a large scale.

• Spyware is software that records the activities of the PC or laptop user, such as keystrokes used for login and password access.


Protect yourself and your business

1. Keep your operating system updated.
Yes, I know it can be annoying when you’re slaving away, you’ve got a deadline to hit, and you just know that by hitting the “update now” button you’ll need to step away from your laptop for anywhere between 10 minutes and 24 hours. If you continue to postpone updates, however, every minute that they are not run is another minute something can go spectacularly wrong and cause permanent damage (or at least an irritatingly longer period of down-time). If you have no IT department and are flying solo, this is even more important!

2. Install a firewall on your system.
I would recommend installing a software firewall on your PC. This will shut down external attempts to access or control your computer. You can install hardware firewalls on your router too to protect the network, as a software firewall will only protect the PC it is loaded onto.

3. Keep your firewall software updated.
Just like the operating system, to make sure all current threats are addressed, the software is continually updated by the owner/creator and so you need to keep it updated too.

4. Get rid of or update old software on your system.
If you have old software on your system that is no longer supported by the owner and is not being updated, get rid of it; otherwise, it creates a vulnerability—a route for attackers to exploit. If it has an update you haven’t yet run, run the update!

5. Install anti-virus software on your PC.
There are loads of free anti-virus software versions out there with the option to buy upgrades for specific purposes. Run these regularly or allow them to automatically update for ongoing anti-virus protection on your system.


In the next lesson, we’ll be looking at password attacks.


Recommended book

“Practical Malware Analysis: The Hands-On Guide to Dissecting Malicious Software” by Michael Sikorski and Andrew Honig


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