What Kind of Malware Is the Most Dangerous?Reading Time: 4 minutes
There are so many malicious programs now, you might be curious about which is actually the most dangerous. Here’s what you should know.
The online landscape is littered with various kinds of malware, many of which have the potential to harm you in some way. But out of all the strains of malware out there today, which are the most dangerous, and which pose the biggest threat to organizations and individuals alike?
Out of all the malware variations available right now, ransomware is certainly among the most concerning. This kind of malware program essentially holds the target’s data or systems hostage, disrupting operations and threatening leaks.
This is done using encryption, with the attacker holding the decryption key. The attacker will request a certain ransom in return for the decryption key, (hence the name ‘ransomware’) but this ransom is often very high, especially if a larger organization is being targeted. Let’s take a look at an example of a ransomware attack to further understand how they work.
The Colonial Pipeline event is one of the most famous cases of ransomware attacks to date. Colonial Pipeline, America’s largest refined oil pipeline system, became the target of a ransomware attack on May 7, 2021.
On this day, a major standstill was caused within Colonial Pipeline’s operations when DarkSide, a world-renowned ransomware-as-a-service platform, successfully loaded malware onto its IT systems. DarkSide’s ransomware has been used in an array of severe attacks by various operators. This is because ransomware-as-a-service services offer users their own ransomware programs in exchange for a fee, so anyone who pays this fee can essentially use DarkSide ransomware for their own exploits.
No one knows exactly how the ransomware was successfully deployed on Colonial Pipeline’s systems, though it is assumed that some kind of security vulnerability opened a door to the attackers. Either way, it caused a lot of damage. Colonial Pipeline had its operations shut down by the ransomware, causing major disruption and inconvenience across the country. Given that Colonial Pipeline supplies gas to a vast expanse of the US, from Texas to New York, a shutdown, no matter how temporary, would be bad news.
The DarkSide operators behind the Colonial Pipeline attack demanded a shocking $5 million in exchange for the decryption key, which, ultimately, the company ended up paying. Luckily, in 2022, $2.3 million of the paid ransom was retrieved by the US Department of Justice, in the form of Bitcoin. But while law enforcement is continuing to crack down on cybercrime, many attackers are still flying under the radar, especially when using more sophisticated techniques.
Ransomware attacks are certainly on the rise, making their threat even more prevalent. In 2021 alone, there were 623.3 million ransomware attacks conducted, an increase of 105 percent from 2020 (as found by AAG). However, attacks did drop by 23 percent in 2022, which is somewhat hopeful, but by no means suggests that we are not at risk of being targeted.
You may not realize it, but you type a lot of confidential things on your keyboard. Whether it’s your email address, phone number, or even a private discussion with other individuals, it all gets input using your keyboard. Cybercriminals know this and have therefore developed a kind of malware program known as a keylogger.
As the name suggests, keyloggers log each keystroke you make on your desktop PC or laptop. And that means each and every stroke. Every time you enter your email, password, payment card information, or any other kind of sensitive data, the attacker who deployed the keylogger can see it all. This means they have access to a wide array of highly sensitive information, which they can use to their advantage.
Once the attacker gets a hold of your private data, they can either use it directly—to hack your accounts, steal your identity, or access your funds—or they can sell it on an illicit marketplace for another malicious actor to exploit. Either way, a successful keylogging operation can put your security and privacy in a lot of danger.
What’s particularly worrying about keylogger programs is that they can often circumvent antivirus detection. In fact, it has been estimated that 10 million computers in the US could currently be infected with keylogger malware (as stated by VPN Overview).
There are various kinds of popular keyloggers out there today, with some coming within other kinds of malware programs, such as spyware. Some notable kinds of keyloggers include WinSpy, Activity Keylogger, and Revealer Keylogger.
3. Trojan Horses
If you don’t know what a Trojan Horse (or simply a Trojan) is in cybersecurity terms, then you may have heard of it through the infamous ancient Greek myth Odyssey, wherein the city of Troy is invaded when gifted a large horse with soldiers hidden inside. And there’s a reason why Trojan Horse programs have this name: they’re designed to deceive.
A Trojan Horse program’s goal is to carry out malicious activities on your device while remaining hidden. They often come in the form of applications that look harmless, but in reality, are equipped with dangerous software that can do a lot of damage.
Let’s say, for example, that a Trojan Horse program is loaded on your computer. Maybe you’ve seen a new app that you might enjoy, though it isn’t widely reviewed and confirmed trustworthy. You may have even downloaded an app from a website, rather than through your default app store (such as Google Play). Once the user downloads the malicious application and its executable file, the Trojan can get to work.
But Trojans don’t just come in the form of deceptive apps. They may also arise from other file downloads you make online, such as opening an email attachment sent from a malicious user. So, if there’s ever a file sent to you from a new or suspicious address, be very cautious about opening it. There are various ways to spot a malicious attachment, such as analyzing the file extension or running it through an attachment scanner to determine its legitimacy.
There are a number of things a Trojan Horse program could do on your device, including exfiltrating and modifying data. These two options alone give cybercriminals a worrying amount of control over your stored information.
Malware Poses a Huge Risk to All Internet Users
As we continue to rely on technology for day-to-day activities, our exposure to malicious programs only increases. It’s absolutely crucial that we take our digital security seriously so that we’re better protected against these highly dangerous programs. Taking a few extra steps to safeguard our devices can make all the difference in the event that a cybercriminal targets us, so consider the overall security levels of your technology today to ensure you’re protecting yourself as much as you can.
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