Cybersecurity Glossary


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What Is Malware?

Malware, a portmanteau of the words malicious and software, is any software or program that is designed to disrupt and damage a system or network. It is often employed by hackers purposefully attack and organization’s network. 

Common Kinds of Malware 

Malware can work in a variety of ways to achieve the specific goal of causing damage and disrupting a system. Common kinds include: 

  • Viruses
  • Ransomware
  • Extortion software
  • Spyware
  • Bots

How Does Malware Work? 

Malware can be installed in several ways, but the most common involves tricking a user into downloading malicious software. This kind of trickery can be through a phishing program, through a Trojan Horse virus, or through other social engineering measures. If an attacker was able to steal credentials previously, they could access the system and install the malware themselves. 

Once the malware is installed it spreads and does what it was coded to do. This action again depends on the kind of malware that was installed.

For example, spyware monitors and sends information back to the bad actors (activity logs, credential usage, etc.), so they can then execute a more complicated attack. Ransomware has the end goal of extorting money from the organization, and bots take over devices to execute a coordinated attack (such as a DDoS attack) on an organization. 

Best Tools for Fighting Malware 

Attack Prevention 

The best tool is to not get infected in the first place. Implementing security awareness training that provides consistent user training and simulations will help your organization better identify malware attack attempts and stay safe against them.  

A strong security awareness program includes: 

  • Modern content that reflects evolving malware threats 
  • Content that is engaging and interactive 
  • Simulations that help users recognize common malware threats 

In addition, implementing a managed detection and response solution will allow your organization to recognize if malware has been installed and stop the attack before damage is done. If malware does enter your network, the next steps are: 

  1. Analyze and validate the kind of malware that is being detected within the system.
  2. Identify any hosts that may be infected.
  3. Prioritize the response based on what that identification and analysis reveals
  4. Work with incident handlers to contain and eradicate the outbreak.
  5. Start recovery work, including restoring system functionality and data.

Attack Response 

Those steps are broad because the response depends on the malware and the organization. The National Institute of Security and Technology (NIST) has in-depth guidelines that all businesses should familiarize themselves with.  

Organizations should also consider working with a managed detection and response solution (MDR) that can offer response and recovery tactics to help your organization mitigate an attack. Strong MDR solutions include: 

  • Managed investigations 
  • Log retention and search 
  • Incident response 
  • Guided remediation 
  • Root cause analysis 
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Arctic Wolf

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Additional Resources For

Cybersecurity Beginners