Malicious software, or malware, means hostile, intrusive or annoying software, script or code that is designed to alter or damage computer operation, collect private and sensitive information and gain unauthorized access to computer systems. Malware includes computer viruses and worms, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, rootkits and others.
Malware attacks become more frequent and sophisticated, threatening the internet economy, businesses and even the national security.
Frequently malware is distributed via email or recently also via text messaging. As with emails, the new generation of text messaging malware is injected onto mobile devices using messages that lure the user to click on a link which will infect the phone with malware.
Most attractive for hackers seems to be the stealing of sensitive information such as credit cards and other financial data of clients to sell it to third parties, affecting not only the client’s privacy but also damaging the client-vendor relationship, causing massive loss of business data or leading to identity theft and fraud.
The 2012 PandaLabs report ranked these malware as very high Cybersecurity threats:
- Mobile Malware: Target mobile phones with the focus on mobile payment methods using Near-Field Communications (NFC) (Android was the main mobile target in 2011)
- Malware for Tablets: Target the same malware as smartphones and additional sensitive data that likely are stored on tablets
- Mac Malware: Targets Macs as the number of Mac users grows; hackers are becoming increasingly interested in malware for Macs, knowing that Mac users are in general more aware of antivirus programs to protect themselves
- PC Malware: PC malware (especially Trojan horses) has increased exponentially over the past few years and will continue to do so (75 percent of new malware in 2011 were Trojans)
While most federal and financial institutions have established high security set-ups protecting them reasonably well against malware, smaller to medium-size businesses often don’t have this standard and are easy targets for hackers.
With increasing use of cloud technology, more internet and social media users, personal computing devices, file downloads and emails etc., there are more ways for malware to spread than ever before. Since malware also grows smarter and increasingly focuses on industrial espionage, it is necessary to provide new tools to defend against these threats which start for the user by ensuring that anti-virus software is installed and up to date and that data is regularly backed up.