Different types of malware, potential threats and tips for protection!


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Malware - How organizations protect against the danger

Viruses and malware - what is the difference?

Any malware, no matter what type, is characterized by the fact that it is installed on a computer without the user's consent and causes damage there. Malware can be used for espionage, to carry out blackmail, can delete data or even paralyze entire networks. Since the early days of malware development in the 1970s to 1980s, malware programs have become more and more sophisticated - and more and more sophisticated. The widespread, synonymous use of the terms malware and virus also dates back to the early days of the first malware programs. It is true that in the IT world every virus is also malware. However, not every malware is also a virus at the same time! Rather, a computer virus is just one of numerous malicious programs that are grouped under the malware category. The virus has a very special significance in terms of malware: the National Institute of Standards and Technology lists the "Brain" virus as one of the first malware ever discovered. Brain" was developed around 1986 by two brothers who earned their money from software. Illegal copies of the software were already a nuisance at the time, so the brothers wrote a program to infect the boot sector of pirated floppy disks, making it impossible for software thieves to use.

Over time, the virus prototype evolved into a whole range of malware. Today, the malware landscape is extremely diverse, as hackers continue to develop new ways, methods and techniques to penetrate their victims' systems. The malware world can be roughly classified into eight types:

  1. Viruses

Computer viruses work similarly to biological viruses: they copy themselves on infected systems by infecting files and spread by sending e-mails, via compromised websites or applications. Viruses always require human intervention to spread - a user unknowingly forwarding a contaminated file, opening an infected email attachment without thinking, or opening compromised websites.

  1. Trojans

This form of malware disguises itself as a "good", legitimate program or file, just like the Trojan horse once did. In this way, unsuspecting users are tricked into installing the malware. Even after compromising a system, Trojans maintain their camouflage and carry out their malicious work unnoticed by the user.

  1. Worms

Worms are malicious programs that operate autonomously and, unlike viruses, do not require human "help" to spread. Worms specifically exploit vulnerabilities in networks or security holes in order to spread. A worm can easily create thousands of copies of itself, which spread across networks and infect other systems.

  1. Adware

Adware is a comparatively harmless, but all the more annoying form of malware. Adware is often distributed via software installers and is used to display advertisements on websites or in applications. Adware is always installed with the explicit consent of the user and is therefore not considered "real" malware, but rather a "potentially unwanted program".

  1. Rootkits

Rootkits allow remote access to a computer, making them extremely useful tools for IT technicians who need to solve existing problems remotely at remote locations. However, rootkits also allow cybercriminals to gain full access to a device. The dangerous thing about rootkits is that they work unnoticed by the user and are difficult to detect by standard anti-virus software.

  1. Spyware

Spyware is spy software that can completely spy on a system and the user's behavior. From keystrokes to mouse pointer movement to login credentials, spyware can capture just about anything and pass it on to the hacker in the background.

  1. Ransomware

Ransomware infects a computer and then encrypts important, sensitive data on the system. Decryption of the data is only possible by entering a code - which the hackers only release upon payment of a ransom - or not, because even after payment has been made, unlocking depends on the "good will" of the criminal extortionists.

  1. Bots

Bots, much like rootkits, were originally developed for legitimate uses. Bots can be used to execute commands on an infected computer. What is a useful tool for IT experts is even more useful for hackers. A bot can be used to infect several computer systems at once and combine them into a botnet. The botnet can be used to steal data, carry out espionage attacks, send spam or carry out extensive DDoS attacks.

What is the danger of malware, and how do I recognize an infection?

The bad news first: malware is becoming increasingly dangerous. It is not only the incredible variety of malware that is causing problems for companies and private users, but also and above all, the continuous professionalization of cybercriminals. Mixed forms of several malware types, malware-as-a-service or advanced persistent threats manipulate data, spy on user behavior, block access to critical files or even paralyze entire networks.

Most malware works covertly and goes unnoticed by users. In some cases, users notice reduced system performance, longer website loading times or background processes. Sometimes malware also disables the connection to the Internet, prevents the computer from booting up or access to system functions. As I said, in some cases. After all, the more professionally a cyberattack is carried out, the lower the option that the infection will be noticed! Especially when it comes to cyber attacks on companies, there are hackers at work who know their trade. Detecting an infection with "on-board means" is almost impossible here.

How organizations protect themselves from malware infection

Here comes the good news: With basic protection security measures, a large part of standard cyber attacks can already be warded off. With an active firewall and virus scanner, many attacks are reliably prevented. Installing updates and patches for operating systems and software closes security gaps, and strong passwords and multi-factor authentication can limit the damage even to compromised systems. The "human vulnerability" can be transformed into a "human firewall" with regular security audits and training for the entire workforce, and the strength of the security measures introduced can be demonstrated through pentests.

Proactive hunting of cyber attackers is suitable as a supplement to conventional security measures in the area of IT security. Threat Hunting using a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) solution enables the detection of threats at an early stage, before they even become problems. With Allgeier secion's Active Cyber Defense (ACD) service, companies get continuous monitoring of their networks by cyber defense experts without having to rely on their own SIEM or SOC. Around the clock and 365 days a year, the IT experts check the network traffic for anomalies, uncover unauthorized access and do not give even highly developed Advanced Persistent Threats the opportunity to penetrate the infrastructure. As a managed service, services such as ACD enable comprehensive protection at significantly lower costs than those incurred for a SIEM solution.


From the first computer virus in the 1980s to the diverse malware world of today, just 40 years have passed. Viruses, worms, ransomware: many of the dangers posed by malware can already be eliminated by basic protective measures such as firewalls or antivirus programs. However, not all of them - because high-performance IT security is indispensable, especially for highly complex, professionally executed cyberattacks. With proactive threat hunting and continuous monitoring of network traffic, potential cyberattacks can be detected at an early stage and damages can be avoided. With ACD, Allgeier Secion offers comprehensive cyber protection - without companies having to resort to their own SIEM or SOC for this.

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