Malware Attacks - Statistics, Types, Cost, and Prevention Techniques

Haseeb Awan
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August 30, 2022
Modified On
April 5, 2023

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Modified On
April 5, 2023

61% of organizations experienced malware activity in 2020 that spread from one employee to another. This number rose to 74% in 2021 and hit 75% in 2022 — the highest infection rate since the SOES survey began in 2016.

Businesses must deal with malware, one of the most significant security risks. Security teams must monitor networks closely to detect and remove malware before it can harm significantly. But with malware, protection is essential. But to stop an attack, it's essential first to comprehend what malware is, the most frequent varieties of malware, and how to stop it.

This guide covers the following points:

  1. What is malware?
  2. Alarming malware attack statistics in 2022
  3. Types of malware
  4. Cost of malware
  5. Malware attack prevention
  6. Summary

What Is Malware?

The weapon of choice for attackers that engage in cybercrime is malware. "Malware" refers to firmware or software designed to perform unauthorized operations that hurt the secrecy, authenticity, or availability of data systems or data, as determined by the NIST Computer Security Resource Center.

You've probably heard malware described as viruses, worms, or trojan horses. Ransomware is a particularly evil kind of harmful software that has fueled the industrialization of cybercrime, caused billions in losses and wreaked havoc on all facets of the economy. It is difficult to talk about malware without discussing ransomware. Malicious actors can use malware to gather credentials, obtain initial access to systems, move around and gather data, install other types of malware, issue control commands, and steal information data from target networks.

Malware is flexible, multipurpose, and becoming more challenging to find and contain with each new generation. Because of malware, the human species has moved away from standard IT infrastructure like servers, emails, and laptops toward operational technology (OT) systems like major manufacturing controllers, production assembly lines, wearable medical instruments for patients, home control systems, and the vehicles we drive.

It's plausible to assume that virtually all firms have encountered malware attacks in the past year, and only about three in four did so knowingly, as Comparitech claims. This grim truth results from criminals' capacity to self-fund the development of new malware and equip criminals with the skills necessary to infiltrate an environment undetected, as well as the problem that security companies frequently fall behind in an ecosystem that is constantly changing.

Alarming Malware Attack Statistics in 2022

  1. In its 2021 State of Email Security Report, Mimecast found that 61% of companies encountered a ransomware attack that led to at least a partial disturbance of business processes. 
  2. 51% of organizations reported experiencing these types of malware attacks in 2021.
  3. Companies globally report ransomware attacks affecting businesses, but organizations in the US are increasingly prepared, with 47% having cyber-resilience plans in place.
  4. In its 2022 State of Cybersecurity Report, ISACA found that 69% of cybersecurity professionals believe their organization's cybersecurity team is understaffed.
  5. In 2021, SonicWall found ransomware was up a record 105%, while IoT malware saw a slight 6% increase with a total of 60.1M attacks against IoT devices.
  6. PDFs and Microsoft Office files were used in over 20% of new malware detections.
  7. 60% of total malware attacks were sent using encrypted traffic. WatchGuard reported that in Q1 2022, 60.1% of all detected malware were attacks of this nature, down from 91% in Q2 of 2021.
  8. The University of California at San Francisco faced a significant ransomware attack by the hacking group known as Netwalker, who demanded a ransom payment of $3M and received a negotiated payment of $1,140K.
  9. Coveware noted that professional services were the most common targets for ransomware in Q1 of 2022, accounting for 20.2% of all attacks, followed by public sector organizations (16.7%), with financial services and consumer services tied for third place at 8.9%.
  10. Purplesec reported an 82% increase in ransomware payments in 2021, now costing $570K on average. 

14 Common Types of Malware

In this section, we will list the most common and riskiest types of malware:

Virus

A computer virus spreads through networks and infects gadgets. To spread, viruses need human interaction. The infection spreads across users' computers once they download the malicious software onto their devices, which is frequently done through fraudulent adverts or phishing emails. In addition to altering computer programs and functionality, viruses can copy, erase, and steal data. They can also encrypt the data to launch ransomware attacks.

Trojans

Malicious software that is trustworthy to users is known as a Trojan horse. Trojans use social engineering strategies to infiltrate targets. The Trojan's payload, or malicious software, is downloaded once it has gained access to a target device and is what makes the exploit possible. Trojans allow for covert access to a system, enable keylogging, set up worms or viruses, and steal information.

Worms

An automated computer worm spreads to other computers by self-replication. Malicious URLs or documents or security flaws allow this virus to infiltrate computers. Worms search inside for networked devices to assault. Users frequently miss worms because they are frequently camouflaged as actual business files.

Wipers

A subset of malware known as wipers destroys (wipes) data and software on compromised computers. Criminals that use wipers seek extortion money to free the compromised data or systems. The payload can not be changed, and any deleted data could not be recovered, even with payment, particularly more sinister wiper versions, such as Petya.

Spyware

Malware that downloads uninvited into a device is called spyware. Users' data is stolen and sold to third parties and marketers. Spyware can collect bank account information, confidential material, and passwords. It attacks devices through rogue programs, URLs, webpages, and email attachments. Mobile device spyware is incredibly toxic since it follows a user's position and exposes the device's microphone and camera. It can be disseminated via SMS and MMS. 

Adware

Software known as "adware" is used to show or download intrusive adverts, most commonly in pop-up windows or banners. Web browser history and cookies are gathered to target users with relevant adverts. Adware isn't always malicious. To reduce expenses, lawful adware is used by software makers with the users' permission. However, malicious adware can show advertisements that, when clicked, could infect a computer.

Riskware

Riskware exists in the gray area between security experts and online criminals. However, once in the hands of the wrong people, these tools collect private data such as login credentials. These tools are used to uncover defense flaws. It frequently offers a gateway with administrator-like access to restricted systems.

Rootkits

A rootkit is a malicious code that gives hackers access to and remotely over a system. Viruses, Keyloggers, and ransomware can propagate more efficiently, thanks to rootkits. Since rootkits can disable endpoint anti-malware and antivirus software inside a system, they frequently go unnoticed. Usually, malicious attachments and phishing emails are the means through which rootkits infiltrate systems and devices.

Cryptominers

A type of malware known as "crypto-jacking" or "crypto mining" utilizes compromised devices to mine cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. To carry out the complex math equations required to authenticate cryptocurrency transactions, crypto miners exploit GPU or CPU cycles covertly. Miners are compensated with a cryptocurrency token for their computations. To carry out the calculations and keep the money, they parasitize networks. Although this malware is less harmful than ransomware, it damages the CPU's electricity and performance.

Fileless Malware

Malware that doesn't use files moves via memory instead of the file systems of computer networks, avoiding detection. Fileless attacks use technologies included in operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows PowerShell, to spawn sideloads or subprocesses within legitimate programs and apps. 

Botnets

Botnets are computer networks that viruses or trojan hybrids have infected. DDOS attacks, spam distribution, and access to compromised systems are all possible with botnets.

Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike offers a wide range of functionality and a persistent backdoor into target networks. Once implemented, criminals have complete freedom to move sideways, remotely send commands, log keystrokes, move files, raise privileges, and port scan for flaws. Cobalt Strike is harder to identify without accessing the disk because it runs in memory and has no files. It is a simulated toolkit for infiltration and attack that was intended for security professionals but was taken by thieves. It enables C2 (command and control) traffic which replicates legitimate traffic and is highly flexible to mask malicious commands like Google Pixel analytics or Java web script. Additionally, it is pliable and capable of delivering malicious payloads as sideloads executed by authentic Windows.

Keyloggers

A keylogger is a type of spyware used for surveillance that tracks keystroke sequences. Malicious actors use keyloggers to acquire users' credentials and other sensitive information. Keyloggers come in software and hardware forms. Keyboards have hardware keyloggers that must be manually set up. The attacker has to physically get the gadget back once the target uses the keyboard.

Moreover, software keyloggers don't need physical access. Victims frequently obtain them through phishing links or downloads. Keystrokes are recorded by software keyloggers, which then send the data to the attacker.

Ransomware

Ransomware locks up data or devices and demands a ransom from victims to allow re-entry. Although the terms malware and ransomware are frequently used interchangeably, ransomware is a particular kind of infection. Ransomware comes in four primary categories:

  1. Locker ransomware: It fully locks users out of their devices.
  2. Crypto ransomware: It encrypts files on a device.
  3. Double extortion ransomware: It encrypts and exports users' files so hackers can sell data on the dark web and/or receive payment from the ransom.
  4. Ransomware as a Service: It allows affiliates, or clients, to rent ransomware. A portion of each ransom is disbursed to the ransomware designer.

The Cost of Malware

You are a victim of hackers because of the data you store and manage. Since most businesses save information about their employees, their finances, their transactions, emails containing sensitive data, and their login details and credentials, some companies gatekeep highly private information, including voter registration, tax documents, health information, and social security numbers. No matter how unassuming or unimportant these possessions seem, they make you a target. They are valuable to crooks. The malware allows thieves to make money while businesses and governments incur growing losses. The National Association of State Information Officers highlights these losses' scope between $665K to $40.53M, with an average cost ranging from $60K to as high as $1.87M. 

How to Prevent Malware Attacks?

It is critical to equip your network with the appropriate security solution, given the rise in malware threats. Malware can only be eliminated after being found. Antivirus software is insufficient to safeguard your company when continuous surveillance is necessary. The comforting reality is that specific proactive tools and services can aid in securing your IT infrastructure. 

Best practices for cyber awareness are now available for corporations to use internally. Being proactive rather than reactive is the greatest method for corporations to defend against threats. Sounds easy, doesn't it? It is possible. Malware infections can be dealt with, but most remedies demand more technical knowledge than the ordinary computer user, making prevention essential.

Here are the essential tips to prevent malware attacks:

Security Software

Security software is a crucial component of your virus protection, even though it is not the entire answer. Secure your network and all of its elements from the primary infection of a malware attack by using anti-malware, antivirus, anti-ransomware, and other anti-exploit tools. You must have the tools to prevent your endpoints, browsers, servers, and core system from being compromised.

Strong Passwords

Ensure that you create passwords using best practices and different numbers, letters, symbols, and cases. Passwords must be longer than 8 characters. Your password needs to be unique and changed frequently. Additionally, they shouldn't be written down anyplace that could be found. Because keeping track of all this information can be challenging, think about utilizing a password manager to manage your login information.

Employ Multi-Factor Authentication

Even the most robust passwords may be compromised, so employ multi-factor authentication to add layer of security and prevent root access in the early stages of malware penetration.

Training and Educating Users

Each user on your network, including those who aren't directly involved in security, is essential in defending the company against cybercrime. Users can only protect themselves if they are knowledgeable about cybersecurity. Your users should get familiar with typical cyber threats, best cybersecurity practices, significant trends, warning indicators, and reporting procedures. You may efficiently increase the number of your security staff by organizing regular training sessions that address these critical themes.

Safe Emails and Browsing

You can mitigate much of the malware's damage by ensuring consumers employ safe browsing habits and eyeing for odd-looking emails. Make sure users carefully review any emails they receive, keeping an eye out for strange email addresses, odd text style or spelling, or strange demands, such as asking them to share sensitive information. Internet use should be scrutinized with the same care as other activities. They should avoid using public WiFi networks and staying on any website that doesn't start with "HTTPS."

Software Patching

Install any new versions of the programs, operating systems, browsers, etc., that you use as soon as possible. Updates frequently come with new security features and lesser holes, so not installing them leaves your network vulnerable to attack. To further limit the risk of penetration, ensure that you remove any outdated technologies from use because older software frequently has security flaws. You should also search for shadow IT (technologies utilized outside IT's supervision).

Implement Edge Micro-Segmentation

As we mentioned above in our analysis of current ransomware assaults, depending on endpoint protection software to stop malware from spreading over networks is insufficient. By leveraging hardware, edge micro-segmentation offers a tangible layer of defense that can't be overridden or compromised by an exploited endpoint. Edge micro-segmentation improves threat control by physically isolating nodes from one another and segmenting a network into nodes, which stops malware from propagating later in a penetration.

Summary

We trust that this article has given you a detailed introduction to malware, its various varieties, and malware attack prevention techniques. Malware can assume many different shapes and launch numerous types of attacks. However, with some careful planning, improved efficiency, continuous user training, and defense-in-depth measures, your firm may achieve and keep a strong security position against malware attacks.

Cybercriminal networks that produce malware are always coming up with and experimenting with new attack strategies. It is essential for security experts to have a comprehensive strategy for creating, maintaining, and upgrading their cyber defenses.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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