Common Malware Schemes

Malware, viruses, spyware – these are geeky terms that can instantly make your head spin. You undoubtedly have heard of them before, and you know they are bad for your computer. However, you do not know what they are exactly. You certainly know about the all-too-common and hilarious Nigerian e-mail scam which, somehow, managed to fool thousands of gullible Internet users around the world. This common scam, although not exactly a malware scheme, is only one of the thousands of schemes circulating the World Wide Web.

Although the Internet has changed a lot over the last decade, and multiple new security packages are protecting users every minute, there are still hundreds of operational and live malware schemes that are fooling the unsuspecting crowd. They work by stealing data (usually personal data), bypassing control and security settings, breaking firewalls, compromising computer functions and causing harm to the host computer.

So let’s see which are the most common types of malware on the Internet:

1. Adware

By far the most common type of malware is adware. A shortened version of “advertising-supported software”, adware is focused on spamming your system. It automatically displays and delivers advertisements, including chain pop-up ads and any other type of ads, often entirely unrelated to your activity or interests. A common way to get adware on your computer is to install “FREE” versions of established (and, therefore, expensive) software packages. The adware sponsors these “FREE” versions, and hackers get all the profits.

Adware, although extremely unpleasant and sometimes downright annoying, doesn’t damage or steal any information. It just acts as an extreme type of click bait advertisement. Adware only becomes a danger when it comes together with spyware, which is capable of tracking your activities and stealing sensitive information.

2. Spyware

Spyware, as the name implies, is a type of malware that acts as a spy on your computer or mobile device. It will get inside your system, will track your activities and steal any sensitive information. Hackers use spyware software to monitor your activity, collect keystrokes, harvest and mine data (your login details, financial data and account information). More evolved spyware programs can interfere with networks, damaging entire organizations that rely on computers.

3. Freeware

There are many web users who habitually download and install small dubious software packages, like free file conversion programs, password removers, archivers, audio and video players, emoticon libraries, etc. These utilities, although small and useful and seemingly harmless, are infested with both adware and spyware files that can damage your computer. Even popular software packages can come filled with data mining spyware files, adware, and other viruses that can slow down and even destroy a whole computer network. Remember the maxim, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and ask yourself how the software developers make any money if they give away their software for free. And if you’re ever offered free add-ons when you install a program, opt out.

4. Bots

Bots are designed to perform and repeat specific operations automatically. Some bots are harmless and are found in video games, online chat rooms, online contests and auctions. However, there are malicious bots as well. For instance, Botnets are networks of computers controlled by a “chief bot” and are used in spam networks and DDoS attacks. These networks scrape server data, steal important information and distribute adware across the Internet.

5. Trojan Horse

Trojan horses, also known as Trojans, are malware programs that stay hidden on the computer, tricking users into thinking they are downloading or installing real software. A trojan acts as a time bomb, attacking the user unexpectedly. It is often used to give its maker access to the infected computer, stealing important personal data. Trojans are used to install other types of malware programs, modify existing files, use computers in botnets and perform other hack attacks.