How does malware work?  What are some common types of malware? 

What is malware 
Home » Blog » How does malware work?  What are some common types of malware? 

How does malware work?  What are some common types of malware? 

Among all the cyber threats, malware has consistently made it to the top list every year. They have become a persistent problem globally.  

What makes them more dangerous is that they are evolving, with more than 1 billion malware programs existing globally.   

Since 95% of data breaches happen due to human error and most business email compromise attacks rely on delivering phishing emails with malware, it is critical to understand what malware is, how it works, and all the probable solutions to secure against it. 

What is malware? 

Malware is an abbreviation for malicious software tailored to gain unauthorized access, infect systems, steal, duplicate. corrupt, and destroy all the sensitive information assets in place.  

Once malware is effective in infecting and gaining control over the endpoints, it engages in damaging and disrupting all the endpoints. Malware is dangerous because cybercriminals leverage it to carry out additional attacks to steal credentials to gain access to the systems and encrypt all the usable data. Now let us look at how they work. 

How does malware work? 

Malware works to create disruption and destruction. Cybercriminals use social engineering techniques such as phishing to deceive the victim into giving their access credentials and making them engage in actions like clicking or downloading the malicious attachment.  

There are multiple ways through which attackers bait their victims into engaging in action through phishing mail, making them visit a fake website, through an infected USB device, etc.   

Once they gain a foothold in one endpoint, they replicate and infect other endpoints across the network, blocking security programs and performing objective tasks of installing malicious applications, encrypting files, etc. It keeps performing its malicious activities until detected.  

What are the types of malware? 

The following are some of the most commonly types of malware: 


A virus is malicious software that a cybercriminal tries to bait its victim, either through email attachments, fake websites, software, etc. Once the malicious software infiltrates the network, it engages in replication and system takeover. It starts consuming CPU power until the system crashes down. In some cases, it acts as a delivery agent to deliver other malicious software. 

Virus in a nutshell 

  • Engages in replication and system takeover 
  • Consumes CPU power until the system crashes 
  • Acts as a delivery agent for other malicious software 


An adware works on, as the name suggests, advertisements. It displays fake ads that redirect victims to fake websites or bait them to install unwanted software. When the user installs the software, it collects all the data about the user. Although not all adware is illegal, and businesses might use it to collect data, most fake adware is malicious and can be the gateway to other cyber threats. Therefore, any form of interaction with random advertisements online should be avoided.   

Adware in a nutshell 

  • Fake adverts that bait users to install unwanted software 
  • Tracks online behavior 
  • Acts as a gateway to other threats 


It is the most popular type of malware where a cyber attacker locks out the system and encrypts the most precious files and folders until he gets paid the ransom. Ransomware is usually delivered through email and malicious sites. It quickly self-spreads to the rest of the endpoints across the network, encrypting the most sensitive data, and causing massive operation.  

Ransomware can also be human-operated. A human-operated ransomware is usually highly persistent in nature, where an attacker deploys multiple techniques to remain persistent and undetected from detection systems. 

Ransomware in a nutshell 

  • Bypasses defense and encrypts all sensitive information assets 
  • Asks for a ransom in exchange for decryption  
  • Self-spreads to all the endpoints  
  • Human-operated ransomware is more persistent, mutates fast, and is harder to detect 


It is malicious software used to collect data from a device or network of the victim where data is relayed back to the attacker, and all their personal data is monitored. Data like sensitive financial information such as credit card data, phone numbers, credentials, and personal information is leveraged by the attacker to orchestrate other attacks. 

Spyware in a nutshell 

  • Collects data from a device or network 
  • The data is relayed back to the attacker 
  • Attacker uses sensitive information to orchestrate more sophisticated targeted attacks  


A trojan is a malicious software masked as genuine software that can gain control of their victim’s system. Upon gaining a foothold in the network, trojan installs malicious software that engages in data theft and causes operational disruption. Some of the common types of trojans depending on the purpose are fake AV (anti-virus software) Trojans, Backdoor Trojans, Mailfinder Trojans, SMS Trojans, etc. 

Trojan in a nutshell 

  • Disguises as genuine software to gain control of the victim’s system 
  •  Installs malicious software to steal data and disrupt operations 

What makes malware dangerous to a business? 

Malware poses a serious threat to businesses, causing increased disruption to operations, loss of the most sensitive data, and a great deal of damage to productivity. The following are some of the dangerous risks posed by malware to businesses: 

Disruption in operations 

Malware attacks can impede the productivity of an organization significantly causing major disruption in operations since businesses depend highly on technological systems for smoother and efficient operations. 

CLOP ransomware impacted operations of more than 8000 organizations worldwide 

Data theft/ loss of the sensitive assets 

The attacks are aimed towards the highly sensitive data assets that comprise customer-specific sensitive personal and financial information. It may lead to a halt in operations and a reduction in productivity due to the loss of dependable operational data. 

Negative impact on reputation 

Any business’ failure to secure its customer data due to a malware attack may severely impact its reputation and may reduce the trust of its stakeholders globally. 

The ICMR data breach in 2023 impacted 81.5 million citizens of India   

Loss of time and money 

Businesses may lose millions of dollars due to a malware attack from damages alone. Not to mention the immense amount of time that they will lose in recovering and remediating from the cyber attack. 

The MOVEit data breach costed more than $10 billion  

Non-compliance cost 

Organizations subject to regional and global compliance may also face the consequences of non-compliance because of exposure to cyber risks because of not proactively taking measures to secure themselves.  

Italian telecom giant TIM SpA paid EUR7.6 million for GDPR violation due to data breaches  

How to protect against malware attacks? 

Here are some of the common measures that you can take to defend against malware 

  • Enable Multi-factor Authentication and different location log-in notification  
  • Set strong passwords (use Password Managers)  
  • Keep your Operating Systems updated regularly.  
  • Regularly take backups of all your systems on cloud or offline devices. 
  • Keep your systems and software and systems updated regularly. 
  • Identify and address cybersecurity awareness gaps through periodical training 
  • Deploy a round the clock team with EDR and SIEM for proactive threat hunting and detection  
  • Identify and implement email protection since most attacks originate from phishing email 
  • Conduct regular security assessments using VAPT and address the gaps in security  
  • Enable your organization with firewall monitoring and early detection of anomalies with SIEM and timely threat intelligence  
  • Use zero trust policy and restrict users to install software in your network 
  • Restrict the usage of USBs and Portable Media Devices (PMDs) 
  • Set a policy for phishing refraining employees from opening suspicious emails and downloading from trusted websites only. 
  • Prevent users from connecting to public WiFi networks 
  • Implement an anti-malware software 

We understand that implementing the above measures on your own can seem like a challenge without having the right team of experts. Don’t worry. SharkStriker is here to assist you with that. We will provide you with the round-the-clock support you deserve for your business to be safe from the risks of malware. We offer a blend of human expertise and technology for unparalleled cybersecurity that keeps your infrastructure and your most valuable assets secure beyond business hours. 


Experience end-to-end management
of statutory and regulatory compliance
through our dedicated service for compliance

Explore More >

Latest Post