The Basics of a Malware Attack

Posted: November 25, 2013 in Articles
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Malware RemovalThe Internet is filled with malicious software. You may think that it’s confined only to low quality websites or places where the webmasters aren’t so keen about checking user-submitted content, but it’s actually possible for malware to be hosted on any website.

That gives hackers 700 million different websites through which they could deliver malware to unsuspecting and unprotected users.

The standard malware attack occurs in five stages.

Let’s go through each of those stages from entry, when the malware is first encountered, to the actual execution stage, which is when your personal data is transmitted back to cybercriminals.

1. The Entry Stage

This is the stage where your computer becomes infected. The download can originate form a compromised website or from links to an infected website in an email.

The best way to understand this stage is to understand how it occurs. The most common example of an entry stage are phishing emails that make a claim that you need to visit this website to rectify something important, such as a security breach for your bank account.

The telltale sign of these links tends to be that they don’t look like they should. For example, the text of the link may be “Your Bank” while it actually links to something like “your-bankinginstitution.maliciouswebsite”.

2. The Distribution Stage

The malware has been downloaded to your computer, so now it has access to information about your system. The problem is that it still hasn’t delivered the payload that will steal your information.

To do this, it has to select the right software that is compatible with your browser and operating system by redirecting your browser to a malicious website where it can be downloaded using vulnerabilities specific to your operating system and browser.

3. The Exploit Stage

Once at the malicious website, it will probe your computer for exploits that are unique to your setup. There are generally hundreds of thousands of exploits available for any given operating system, but most are patched by vendors.

If you’re too lax on keeping your system updated with the latest patches, then it’s likely these website will quickly find the right malware to infect your computer with.

Even if your system is updated with the latest patches, it may not be secure. Some antivirus and anti-malware software can protect you in this situation. To learn more about which can, do some research and read reviews online.

4. The Infection Stage

Once an exploit has been identified that will work with your computer, the malicious software is free to be downloaded to your computer.

Again, one of the few things that can still provide protection at this point is a proper antivirus program. Even then, it still may fail.

5. Execution

The malware that gets downloaded at this point tends to be extremely pesky and nearly impossible to remove. Cybercriminals use this to their advantage and they lock you out of your computer until you pay them a ransom.

Software that does this is referred to as “ransomware.” It’s the type of software that accounts for a large amount of the profits that cybercriminals make from poor, unsuspecting victims.

Keeping Yourself Safe

The best way to stop an attack like this is to stop it at step one. Most reliable antivirus programs, firewall suites and anti-malware software will work to block troublesome websites and the malicious code cybercriminals plant on compromised websites.

In the event that they still fail, they still give you the chance to stop hackers at any one of these steps. All it takes is one broken link in this chain of events to stop a cybercriminal from profiting off you.

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