What is Malicious Software? Protect Yourself!

Malicious software is software that a cyber criminal places on a victims computer via the computer's Operating System.

  • Malicious software is a term used to describe all harmful computer software.

The malicious software can be created to simply disrupt a victim's device or can allow the cyber criminal to spy on a device or have sole access to the device, preventing victims from being able to access the computer and its data.

CYBER INVESTIGATOR Aptitude Test



Types of Malicious Software

Malicious software is a term used to describe all harmful computer software and there is a bunch software that fits this description. However, there are three common forms of malicious software:

  1. Ransomware

  2. Spyware

  3. Virus

Malicious Software: Ransomware

Ransomware is malicious software that a cyber criminal places on a victims computer via the computer's Operating System. The ransomware allows the cyber criminal to have sole access to the victims computer, preventing the victim from being able to access the computer and its data. The cyber criminal/ hacker will then request money in exchange for granting computer access back to the victim.


Malicious Software: Spyware

Spyware is secretive malicious software that sends user information to a database. Spyware is downloaded on a computer without the user knowing. This covert malicious software download usually happens when the victim visits a web page that forces the victim's device to covertly download the malicious spyware program.

  • Spyware can also come secretly packaged with a program the victim voluntarily downloads.

  • Spyware can also be the entire program, secretly disguised as a safe program.

After the successful download of the spyware, the victim's data on the computer is recorded and sent to the owner of the spyware.


Malicious Software: Virus

A computer virus is malicious software that acts like a biological virus: it spreads on its own to other computers. Many computer viruses are created to cause havoc and damage the OS on computers.

malicious software
How Does Malicious Software Get on a Computer?

Malicious software attacks weak points in the computer’s Operating System:

  • An Operating System (OS) is the software that runs a computer or device. The OS manages the computer's memory and processing. The OS enables the user to operate the computer without knowing coding. Everything that is seen on the computer’s monitor is the OS.

  • OS examples: Apple iOS 14 and Android 10.

Common ways for malicious software to make its way into a computer's OS is email, pop up ads, and websites.

harmful software
Malicious Software Via Email

Malicious software is delivered to many victims' devices via phishing email:

  • A phishing email is an email that has a downloadable attachment which is the malicious software.

The email will attempt to look innocent or similar to an email the victim is expecting. The victim will then download the attachment, thinking it is something else.

malicious software program
Malicious Software Pop Up Ads

These are online ads where the links does not go to a product page but rather to a download of the malicious software.


Malicious Software Via Bad Website

A bad website is a compromised website. This website secretly forces the user's computer to download the malicious software.


How Do I Protect Myself From Malicious Software?

There are three good ways to practice cyber security and fight malicious software:

  1. Use reputable and up to date anti-virus software.

  2. Only download programs from trusted sources.

  3. Not clicking online ads or email links and attachments.

About the Author

software

Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 15 years as a Professional Investigator. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities.