1.  
      Executive Summary

 

Information technology is increasingly
playing an important role in work and daily lives of citizens. Computers,
communications, digital information software – the constituents of the
information age are everywhere.

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And with the increasingly dependence on
Information Technology in recent times, we are exposing ourselves to a wider
range of information security attacks.

There are many types of computer security
threats in this world. Some are quite harmful while some are totally harmless
although annoying. There are also some which does not do any damage to your
computer, but has the capability to empty the numbers in your bank account.

The Internet is no longer the
safe haven it was many years ago. Malware is on the rise and can be found in
all corners of the Internet. By simply navigating to a website or opening an
email, you are at risk of infecting your computer.

 

A Research has been carried out to study on a couple of these
security threats and I will like to elaborate more on 2 of such threats.
Malware and (?). They are popular and once left unchecked could cause real
trouble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  
         Malware

 

2.1        Description

 

Malware is the abbreviation of the words malicious and
software. The term refers to software that is deployed with malicious
intention. To explain it in simple terms, malware is any piece of software that was written with the
intent of doing harm to data, devices or to people. Software that
does anything that it
didn’t tell you it was going to do can be considered as malware.

Crime syndicates creates these malwares mainly with the
intention to carry out cyber-attacks on financial institution because these
institutions operate software that track ownership of monetary assets. Malware
is frequently used to steal information related to monetary terms, such as
login information, credit card and bank account numbers. Malware threat is on the rise due to
the large volume of new types created daily and the lure of money that can be
made through them. Malware was originally created as experiments
and pranks, but eventually led to vandalism and
destruction of targeted machines. Today, much of malware is created for profit
through forced advertising (adware), stealing sensitive information (spyware),
spreading email spam or child pornography (zombie computers), or to extort
money (ransomware).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.2        Nature of threat

 

Malware is simple to deploy remotely and tracking the origin
of malware is difficult. Because of these 2 factors, there is a demand for
malware providers to continuing supplying black markets both malware and the
information that it has collected.

There are many forms of Malware as software. It can be
deployed on desktops, servers, mobile phones, printers, or even programmable
electronic circuits. Sophisticated attacks have confirmed data can be stolen
through well written malware residing only in system memory without leaving any
traces in the form of persistent data. Malware has been known to disable
security protection mechanisms such as desktop firewalls and anti-virus
programs. Some of these malwares, if well written have the ability to bypass
authentication, authorization, and audit functions. It can configure
initialization files to maintain presence even after an infected system is
rebooted. Upon execution, sophisticated malware may self-replicate and/or lie
dormant until summoned via its command features to extract data or erase files.

 

Some of the more common types of Malware and their unique
traits and characteristics are as follows:

Virus: A virus is the most common type of malware, and it’ is known
as a malicious program that can execute itself and spreads by infecting
other programs or files. Viruses attach themselves to files and infect other clean
files. They spread quickly without control, damaging a system’s functionality,
through deleting or corrupting files. Viruses normally exist in the form
of an executable file.
Trojans: Trojans disguises
itself as a legitimate software, or is included in legitimate software
that has been tampered with. Once activated following
installation, Trojans can execute their malicious functions
Spyware:  Spyware is malware designed to spy
on you. It hides in the background and takes notes on what you do online,
including your passwords, credit card numbers, surfing habits and more.
Worms: Worms infect entire
networks of devices, either local or across the internet, by using network
interfaces. It uses each consecutive infected machine to infect more
systems. A worm is a type of malware that can self-replicate
without a host program; worms typically spread without any human
interaction or directives from the malware authors.
Ransomware: Also known as
scareware, this kind of malware can lock down your computer and threaten to
erase everything unless a ransom is paid to its owner. It is designed to
infect a user’s system and encrypt the data. Cybercriminals then demand a
ransom payment from the victim in exchange for decrypting the system’s
data.
Adware: Normally not malicious
in nature, they are really annoying by aggressively giving you
advertisements through endless pop-ups.  These can also undermine your security which
can give a lot of other malware a way into the system. Slows down your
computer too.
Rootkit: It is a type of
malware designed to obtain administrator-level access to the victim’s
system. Once installed, the program gives attackers root or privileged
access to the system.

·        
Keylogger: It is a spy software
installed on a computer, it can also be a spying device plugged onto a
computer. They save all text typed keys using a computer keyboard. These
keylogger program have advanced features such as taking screenshots, sending
reports to email, storing browsing history or history of frequently accessed
applications. Keystroke
logging is when a piece of malware tracks every keystroke you make on your
computer’s keyboard. Based on the keystrokes, hackers will be able to identify
or guess login IDs and passwords to bank accounts and whatever other websites
you may be visiting.

Remote
Administration Tools (RATs): Software that allows system to be
controlled remotely. Initially built for legitimate use, but is now being
exploited by cyber criminals. They allow intruders administrative access,
allowing the attacker to do almost anything on an infected computer.
Difficult to detect as they do not show up in list of running programs or
tasks. Often these actions are mistaken as legitimate programs.

·        
Botnets: Short form for “Robot
network”. These are networks of infected computers under control of attackers
using command and control servers. They are highly versatile and adaptable.
Able to maintain resilience through redundant servers and by using infected
computers to relay traffic. They are often behind today’s distributed
denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The attacker repeatedly loads a website with
fake requests with the intention of making it unreachable.

Browser
hijacker:
Software that modifies your web browser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.3                     
Threat Mitigation

Malware can infect a computer or other device in many ways. Most of
the time it usually happens completely by accident, installed by you yourself.
Overlooking what you are doing and rushing through program installations that
include malicious software. Many programs install malware-ridden toolbars,
download assistants, system and Internet optimizers, bogus antivirus software,
and other tools automatically…
unless you tell them not to.

Some malware can be infected on your computer by taking advantage of
security vulnerabilities in your operating system and software programs.
Outdated versions of browsers, and often their add-ons or plug-ins as well, are
easy targets.

Another common source of malware is via software downloads that seem
to be something safe like a simple image, video, or audio file, but in fact it
is a harmful executable file that installs malicious
programs.

The only way to really stay protected or remove
an infection is by using anti-malware software, more commonly known as an
antivirus. The best malware removal tools are included in the most advanced
antivirus. Free software like AVG antivirus FREE have all you need to stay safe
from the most common threats. They index the countless malware
applications that exist and act as a barricade against infiltration.

And if you do not install any third-party
antivirus or firewall programs, Windows offers its own built-in firewall and
antivirus protection too. Many users make mistakes by turning off the built-in
firewall and antivirus software provided with them. Unless you are using other
antivirus software with a firewall function, these features should never be
turned off.  

The best protection
from malware continues to be the usual advice: be careful about what email attachments
you open, be careful when surfing and stay away from suspicious websites, and
install and keep an updated and quality antivirus program.

How do you know
if your system is possibly affected by these troublesome malwares? Listed below
are some symptoms and recommendations. Apart from these recommendations, installation
of anti-malware software or at least update your seemingly outdated software.

SLOWDOWN

Does
it take longer than normal for your operating system to boot up? Are some
of your programs taking a long time to start?

It is a known fact that malware has
the tendency to slow down your operating system, your Internet
speed or the speed of your applications.

If you notice something like this
and you’re not using any resource-heavy program or application, check for other
causes first. It may be a lack of RAM memory, a fragmented system, a lack of
space on your hard drive or maybe a hardware issue affecting your drive. 

If you have already thoroughly
verified these possible causes and all seems fine, you can start considering a
potential malware infection.

POP-UPS

One of the most annoying signs of
malware is represented by the unwanted pop-up windows. Unexpected pop-ups which
appear on the system are a typical sign of a spyware infection.

The main issue here is not only
by the numerous pop-up windows that affect your Internet navigation, but also
because it is quite difficult to remove them from the system.

Pop-ups are not only annoying,
but they usually come bundled with other concealed malware threats, and which
could be far more destructive for our systems.

To avoid
spyware and
its impact on your systems, keep in mind a few security practices advised
earlier.

·        
Do not
click any suspicious pop-up windows

·        
Do not
answer unsolicited emails/messages

·        
Be
careful when downloading free applications

3.
CRASHES

If your programs or your system
crash constantly or the infamous BSOD
(Blue Screen of Death) appears regularly, it’s a clear
warning that your system is not working properly and you should check it up.

It could be due to technical
incompatibility between your newly installed software and hardware, but they
have been working fine before, it might be due to a malware attack.

4. SUSPICIOUS HARD DRIVE ACTIVITY

Another warning sign of a
potential malware infection on your system is the hard drive activity.
If you notice that your disk continues to exhibit excessive activity even
when you don’t use it and there is no program or download running at that
moment, this could be the right time to check your system for malware. Though
it could also be due to hardware failure of the disk too.

5. RUNNING OUT OF HARD DRIVE
SPACE

Regarding the hard drive, you
also need to check if your physical storage space has been increasing lately or
if some of your files disappeared or changed their names.

This is another sign of malware
activity, since there are numerous types of malicious programs which use
various methods to fill up all the available space in the hard drive and cause
it to crash.

6. UNUSUALLY HIGH NETWORK
ACTIVITY

There are cases where the user is
not connected to the Internet through his browser, and there is no program that
may connect to online servers to download or upload any data, but high network
activity can still be observed.

7.NEW BROWSER HOMEPAGE, NEW TOOLBARS
and/or UNWANTED WEBSITES ACCESSED WITHOUT YOUR INPUT

Have
you noticed that your home page has been changed and you don’t remember doing
it yourself?
Did a new toolbar pop out of nowhere and landed at top of your web browser?
Have you tried to access your favourite blog, but you were redirected to a
different address?

This usually happens when you
visit a website and you accidentally click a link or a pop-up window. This
triggers unwanted software to download and install on your device. Its effects
are not only annoying, but also malicious.

UNUSUAL MESSAGES OR PROGRAMS THAT
START AUTOMATICALLY

·        
You see
programs opening and closing automatically without your input

·        
your
Windows operating system shutting down without reason

·        
if you
notice strange windows in the booting process

·        
or if
Windows informs you that you’ve lost access to some of your drives.

9. YOUR SECURITY SOLUTION IS
DISABLED

If your antivirus
solution doesn’t seem to work anymore or if the Update module seems to be
disabled, then check to see what happened immediately!

You should know that some types
of malware are especially designed to disable security solutions, leaving you
without any form of defence. If you already tried rebooting your computer,
close and open the security solution and all your troubleshooting efforts were
useless, you could consider the malware infection scenario.

10. YOUR FRIENDS TELL YOU THAT
THEY’RE GETTING STRANGE MESSAGES FROM YOU

Your
friends telling you that they received suspicious emails from you or instant
messages from your social media account, which often include attachments or
links?

Firstly, you need to verify
whether those emails or messages were sent from one of your accounts (so check
your Sent Items folder in your email/social media account). If there’s
nothing there, those messages could have been delivered from an application
which is out of your control.

If you discover the messages were
sent from one of your accounts, take these steps:

·        
Make sure you logged out from all your accounts. We access the same accounts
on our work computers, on our home laptops and of course, on our mobile
devices. Since we log in to our favorite online accounts on so many devices, it
can happen that sometimes we forget to log out. Therefore, always make sure to
log out from your online accounts on all devices.

·        
Set strong passwords for your accounts. Don’t use the same password for all your
accounts! Even if you are hacked, having different passwords for each account
will help you limit a potential loss. Make a habit of managing your passwords safely.

·        
Use two-factor authentication. This authentication can significantly
increase your control over your accounts’ security. Using two-factor
authentication means that, besides entering your credentials, you will also
need to enter a code sent to your phone.

11. NEW, UNFAMILIAR ICONS ON
DESKTOP + BATTERY LIFE DRAINS QUICKLY

·        
If you
notice unknown and new icons on the desktop of your computer without you
installing it, you may have downloaded a piece of software that contains potentially Unwanted Programs). They
are considered to be malware and can do a lot a damage by collecting private
information, showing annoying ads or pop-ups on the desktop or adding toolbars
on your browser.

·        
Is your
laptop battery life is draining fast? You may have lots of applications and
program running, such as games or streaming services, or, the worst scenario,
it could be a virus infection affecting your device. This mainly happened
because most of the devices didn’t receive the latest system updates, making
them vulnerable to cyber attacks.

·        
 

12. YOU SEE UNUSUAL ERROR MESSAGES

·        
If you
see unusual error messages saying that you have missing or corrupt files
folders on your computer, it could be a warning sign that is infected with
malware.

 

13. YOU ARE UNABLE TO ACCESS THE CONTROL PANEL,
TASK MANAGER, REGISTRY EDITOR OR COMMAND PROMPT

·        
This is
another sign that your computer is vulnerable and exposed to potential cyber
attacks. To keep your PC safe and protected, it’s recommended to run a full
scan of your system using a good antivirus program.

 

How Do You Remove
Malware?

Aside from the most serious of malware infections, most are
removable with some simple steps, although some are easier to remove than
others.

Many common types of malware are actual programs like the legitimate
software you use every day. Those programs can be uninstalled, just like
anything else, from Control Panel, at least in Windows
operating systems.

Other malware, however, is more complex to remove, like rogue registry keys and individual files
that can only be removed manually. These types of malware infections are
best removed with anti-malware tools and similar specialized programs.

 

 

3      
Conclusion

It is no surprise that malware
will continue to advance and automate some of its most effective manual attack
techniques. As enterprise malware defence measures become more sophisticated,
malware will inevitably find new methods to circumvent them. In order to
control and mitigate potential attacks, constant attention and action is
required from enterprises. Enterprise security controls and technologies will need
to be vetted constantly to ensure they are effective against current attacks.
Changing security programs and controls when new attacks or vulnerabilities are
discovered is essential to stay ahead.

Knowledge is our best weapon

Knowing
how malicious software behaves on a regular system may just prove to be
the key element between staying safe and
having your system wrecked or your online identity stolen.

Since we
live in a connected and complex environment, online security doesn’t end with
installing a series of security programs and forgetting about them. It’s
essential that we also understand how malware behaves on the system, so we can
mitigate its impact.

In the end, it is our knowledge
of malware tools and methods that keeps us safe, because it is far
easier to prevent a threat from becoming reality than to take actions
against it when it’s already too late.

 

 

 

 

3       Citation

http://www.itscolumn.com/2012/03/28-types-of-computer-security-threats-and-risks/

https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/itl/BITS-Malware-Report-Jun2011.pdf

https://www.detective-store.com/blog_en/what-is-a-keylogger-and-how-does-it-work/

The goal of malware
(https://www.tomsguide.com/us/what-is-malware,news-18482.html)

How malware works (http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/malware)

https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/warning-signs-operating-system-infected-malware/

https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-malware-2625933

(https://www.bullguard.com/bullguard-security-center/pc-security/computer-threats/malware-definition,-history-and-classification.aspx)

https://blog.sitelock.com/2016/06/what-is-malware/

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