Threatware, often called malware, is malicious or harmful software that’s unintentionally installed on a device. Threatware includes everything from viruses, to spyware, worms, keyloggers, and ransomware.
Left unmonitored, hackers and cybercriminals can use threatware to harm your device, access login credentials, hijack your webcam, and even steal
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at threatware, how it’s installed, and what you can do to protect yourself.
Types of Threatware
There are different types of harmful and malicious software that fall under the category of threatware. Here are a few:
- Viruses: Viruses are self-replicating programs that attach themselves to legitimate files or programs. They spread by infecting other files or systems and can cause damage to data or disrupt system operations.
- Worms: Like viruses, Worms can self-replicate and spread across networks without any user intervention. They exploit security vulnerabilities to propagate and can cause significant network congestion and damage.
- Trojans:Trojans are deceptive programs that masquerade as legitimate software or files, tricking users into installing them. Trojans can create backdoors, steal sensitive information, and grant unauthorized access to the attacker.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of threatware that encrypts files on a victim’s system, rendering them inaccessible until a ransom is paid. The ransom is usually paid through an untraceable currency, like a cryptocurrency. It can spread through email attachments, malicious downloads, or phishing attacks. Ransomware affected 66% of organizations in 2021.
- Spyware: Spyware secretly gathers information about a user’s activities without their knowledge or consent. It can track keystrokes, capture passwords, monitor browsing habits, and even collect sensitive data.
- Adware:Adware displays unwanted advertisements, often in the form of pop-ups or banners, to generate revenue for the attacker. It can also collect user data for targeted advertising or compromise the system’s performance.
- Keyloggers: Keyloggers record keystrokes on a compromised system, capturing sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, or personal messages and sent back to the attacker.
- Rootkits: Rootkits are malicious programs designed to gain unauthorized access to a system and maintain control while remaining hidden. They modify system files or settings to evade detection and allow attackers to perform malicious activities without being detected.
How is Threatware Installed?
Cyber criminals are finding creative and deceptive ways to gain access to your system. According to Statista, threatware incidents have been rising through the years, with over 5.5 billion were detected in 2022 alone.
Here are some common ways people install threatware.
A phishing attack is a type of cyber attack where the victim is tricked into revealing sensitive information, like login credentials, credit card info, or personal data. These attacks can occur through emails, instant messages, or text messages. Through tricks and psychological manipulation, they’re able to convince even the most skeptical.
- Urgency. You may receive an email from a convincing address, demanding that we take action soon or incur some penalty. This might be an email from ‘Accounting’ that requires you to review an excel file, or a notice that your netflix account can’t process a payment and needs you to update payment information. When people are manipulated through a sense of urgency, they’re unable to think rationally.
- Familiarity. Hackers might install threatware by mimicking a popular website, imitating a colleague, or by disguising themselves as someone else. This is common on social media, where bad-actors often assume the identity of another user. They’ll even go as far to steal their photos, and share similar content. The goal is to get you to trust them before they reach out to you, usually asking you to download a file or click a link.
- Curiosity. Sometimes curiosity gets the best of us. You might want to get the scoop on celebrity gossip, learn about an ‘unbelievable’ weight loss supplement, or watch a viral video. Unfortunately, this can lead us to clicking on unsecure, and questionable links.
Drive-by downloads occur when a user visits a compromised website that contains hidden malicious code. The code is designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the user’s browser or plugins, silently downloading and installing threatware without their knowledge or consent.
Hackers can distribute malware through methods like attachments, malicious links in emails or websites, infected software downloads, and compromised advertisements (malvertising). Consider the last time you went on a website to download software. You may have seen other links to download software disguised as a native download button. This is a popular way for threatware like malvertising to be installed on your computer.
Exploiting Software Vulnerabilities
Cybercriminals actively search for vulnerabilities in software applications, operating systems, or plugins. They exploit these weaknesses by using techniques to gain access and install threatware.
USB/Removable Media Attacks
Just like the movies, hackers plant threatware on USB drives or other removable media devices, strategically leaving them in public places or workplaces where they know their targets will encounter them. When a user plugs the infected device into their computer, the threatware is executed, compromising
Protect Yourself Against Threatware
There are many ways to inadvertently fall victim to threatware. However, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk. First, stay vigilant. Be naturally suspicious of unfamiliar websites, email addresses, and files.
If your company has an IT policy, stay up-to-date on the best practices involving reporting phishing attempts and spam. Store your device in a secure location and keep sensitive information encrypted and use strong passwords.
Lastly, work with a trusted and robust anti-virus provider. SUPERAntiSpyware™ detects and removes threatware, malware, ransomware, and spyware. By leveraging an AI-Powered detection database, we identify the slightest hints of threatware before it becomes a problem. Find out why SUPERAntiSpyware™ has been downloaded by millions.
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