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Malware Awareness in SMOs

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Getting caught by malware

Malware is used by attackers to enable them to get to you, your data, or other assets. Getting it onto organisations' systems has become a real are on the part of attackers, everyday anyone communicating with the world using technology is likely to come across many attempts to infect them.

This is edited content from Sarb Sembhi and co-host Nick Ioannou. Also in video and podcast media.

What is malware?

Malware is a generic term for malicious software and encompasses anything that has been designed to affect the confidentiality, integrity, and availabilityof data and/or computer systems without permission, to commitextortion, theft,fraud, orenableunauthoriseduse. Malware is mostly created by criminals, including organised crime, as well as nation states and activists, but can also be created accidentally.

The term ‘malware’ is often interchangeable with the term ‘virus’, especially anti-virus, as just about all anti-virus solutions are also anti-malware.

Malware Growth

Malware is not a new phenomenon, going back to the 1980s, their impact was limited as often the infection route was via floppy disk, but as the internet developed in the 90s, together with huge increasesin the use of computers at both home and work,the impact of malware also grew. By thestart of the21stCentury, malware could infect millions of computers withinhours of being releasedas broadband services replaced dial-up internet access.

Over the past decade the leaps in the speed of our internet connections on both fixed and mobile connections, together with the shift to cloud computing, has allowed the criminals to develop malware to carry out multiple crimes, often without the victims knowledge.To get a sense of the scale of the current problem,the AV-TEST Institute(av-test.org)registers over 350,000new malwareprograms and potentially unwanted applicationsevery day, with over malware accounting for over 89%.

Over the past 10 years the total number of malware programs has grown from 65 million to 1069 million. This is in part due tothe growth inmalware designed formobilesand tablet operating systems like Google Android, as well as computing operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS.One of most predominanttypes ofmalwarewith the greatest impact is ransomware, whereindividuals and organisationsare locked out of their computers or locked out of their data and extortedfor large sums of moneyto regain access.Many Organisations never fully recover from a major ransomware infection and go under within 6 months.

How Malware Spreads?

Sometimes differenttypes of malware are given names based on what their creators are trying to achieve,such as a Key Logger, Botnet, File Stealer,Cryptojacker, Remote Access Trojan, Spyware and Adware, while other typesare namedbased on theirinfection route ordelivery method, such as a Virus, Worm, Rootkit or ExploitKit.New types of malware areconstantly beingdeveloped, so thisis by no means an exhaustivelistand will only get longer over time.Also, just because a piece of malware has atypeor name, thatdoes notmean it is limited to that one function. In many cases the trendisformalware thatfirstestablishes a foothold onto a user’s computer, assesses the potential for various activities and chooses the most profitable, or a combination of functions.

In over 90% of situations,the main infection route formalwareis via email, either as an attachment or a link in the email. The other methods includecompromising established websites, typo-squatting established domains, compromising remote access tools,compromised software updates, fake online services, cracked software, bogussocial media messages and posts, even dropping infected USB memory sticks in car parks.

Another way to look at it is, that malware is essentially computer code, and to consider how this computer coder gets from one place and onto your organisations' computer. There are two obvious ways that this happen, firstly if that code is in a file it can get into Organisations in at least the following ways:

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