Malware - You Could Be Forgiven For Feeling A Little Nervous

Malware has become the most powerful tool in the modern day cyber criminal armory of gadgets and has become the key component in almost all successful cyber attacks. Fifteen years ago the criminals would have to manually scan entire network blocks and build a list of IP addresses that they could access on the internet. They would then probe the common ports looking for system security flaws such as vulnerable ftp servers. They would then exploit their target by carrying out tasks such as securing the system, retrieving passwords and scanning for other weaknesses. This process could take weeks and each stage of the process required a different tool which had a unique purpose and would require manual interaction.

Nowadays the serious attackers use the most advanced tools and technology and the entire process of system compromise to data collection takes seconds. Computer viruses were first identified as simple tools that were capable of changing files or cracking system passwords. Malware is a bundle of tools that enables a hacker to infiltrate a computer network, read the memory and compromise the operating system at the lowest level by infecting boot sectors and rootkits.

More of a concern is the ability of these cyber criminals to create and control entire networks of malware infected zombie computers called botnets. These highly organized networks are used to spread viruses, generate spam, collect data and commit other types of online crime and fraud. This threat is only getting worse as antivirus companies discover thousands of variations to this malicious software every day.

The type of criminals involved in these attacks has also changed. The typical culprit of yesterday was the curious teenager or the unskilled want-to-be hacker using tools developed by someone else to launch their attack on computer systems. The threat today is from highly organized criminals with research and development teams who are only interested in the bottom line on a global scale.

To make matters worse, there exists an black market for malware. The latest tools in cyber warfare may be purchased or traded. Custom malware services are also provided which include a guaranteed support system. Imagine the cyber entities with unlimited budgets developing the latest cyber malware tools. They have the potential to infiltrate and gather as much intelligence as possible, taking control of and disrupting cyber activities of other countries if that was their goal. Extortion in exchange for regaining control of computer

systems would not be out of the question.

Malware has become the common denominator in almost all attacks we see today. There are ways to safeguard your system. One way to install top rated security software and set it to ensure that it is automatically updated. Another is to ensure that your operating system is kept up to date with the most current patches and updated automatically. To protect your networks you must understand and defend against malware.

By: Stephen Reeves