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What is malware?

Malware is short for MALicious softWARE. As the name suggests, it any software which is created with the intention of causing harm to the system. The system can be a computer, mobile phone, tablet,  laptop, desktops, and many more gadgets. Anything and everything which can be connected to the Internet or connected to other devices. Malware can be used to collect your personal data, gains access to programs or systems on your network, and prevents your computer from running efficiently.

Malware can enter the system through a corrupt website, spam emails, drive-by-download, clicking on advertisements, downloading documents from an unknown mail id, etc.

Previously, the main source of malware distribution was through executables. But as the awareness grew over the time, people stopped the download of unknown executables and the malware production and risks reduced. But the attack source merely shifted from executables to non-executable files and unfortunately, awareness regarding the risk of non-executable files is still not prominent.

Types of malware:

You may often have heard of the term computer virus, which is also a type of malware that, when executed, replicates itself by modifying other computer programs and inserting its own code.

Most common and important types of malware that you should be aware of are

  1. Computer Virus
  2. Trojan horses
  3. Worms
  4. Rootkits
  5. Ransomware
  6. Keyloggers
  7. Adware
  8. Spyware
  9. Browser Hijacker and many more.

Malware statistics:

In 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s web antivirus detected 15714700 unique malicious objects(scripts, exploits, executable files, etc.) and 199455606 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by web antivirus components. Kaspersky Lab solutions detected and repelled 118728338 malicious attacks launched from online resources located in 206 countries all over the world.


Figure 1: Increase in the production of new malware between 2016 and 2017. Source of the image is McAfee Labs Threats Report, March 2018

The data for these statistics come from the McAfee Sample Database,
which includes malicious files gathered by McAfee spam traps, crawlers, and customer submissions, as well as from other industry sources.

Figure 1. shows a significant increase in the production of new malware codes

Figure 2: Increase in the number of ransomware over the quarterly reports.

In 2017, McAfee Labs observed 59% increase in ransomware year over year, including 35% growth in Q4 alone.

Initially, in the early days of malware, it was concealed in executable files which then spread from one source to another. But later on, as the awareness grew, people became careful while downloading and sharing executables.

Consequently, the attackers moved from executables to different non-executable files types(word, pdf, ppt, excel sheets,web) to inject the virus onto the host machines. Unfortunately, the awareness regarding non-executable files containing malware is still not adequate to stop a considerable number of attacks.


Distribution of 2017-kaspersky.PNG
Figure 3: Distribution of malware, by application attacked in 2017.
Distribution of malware 2018
Figure 4: Distribution of malware, by application attacked in 2018.

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