Malware Types Targeting User’s Activity

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Malicious software is a common threat that any organization will face. Within information technology (IT) security, this is relatively easy to prevent. However, that doesn’t reduce its importance. The damage can be extensive if an organization ignores this threat. If you’re planning on taking the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of malware types.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. Of the following malware types, which one is MOST likely to monitor a user’s computer?

A. Trojan

B. Spyware

C. Adware

D. Ransomware

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

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Malware types include adware, virus, spyware, Trojan, rootkits, backdoors, logic bomb, botnets, ransomware, polymorphic malware, and armored virus. This post covers spyware and adware.

Spyware

Spyware is software installed on users’ systems without their awareness or consent. Its purpose is often to monitor the user’s computer and the user’s activity. Spyware takes some level of control over the user’s computer to learn information and sends this information to a third party. If spyware can access a user’s private data, it results in a loss of confidentiality.

Some examples of spyware activity are changing a user’s home page, redirecting web browsers, and installing additional software, such as search engines. In some situations, these changes can slow a system down, resulting in poorer performance. These examples are rather harmless compared with what more malicious spyware (called privacy-invasive software) may do.

Malware Types

Privacy-invasive software tries to separate users from their money using data-harvesting techniques. It attempts to gather information to impersonate users, empty bank accounts, and steal identities. For example, some spyware includes keyloggers used to capture keystrokes. The keystrokes are stored in a file, and the spyware periodically sends the file to the attacker. In some instances, the spyware allows the attacker to take control of the user’s system remotely.

Spyware is often included with other software like a Trojan. The user installs one application but unknowingly gets some extras. Spyware can also infect a system in a drive-by download. The user simply visits a malicious web site that includes code to automatically download and install the spyware onto the user’s system.

Adware

When adware first emerged, its intent was usually to learn a user’s habits for the purpose of targeted advertising. As the practice of gathering information on users became more malicious, more people began to call it spyware. However, some traditional adware still exists.

A common type of adware is pop-ups. For example, while you are visiting a site, another browser window appears, or pops up, with an advertisement. These pop-up windows aren’t malicious, but they are annoying.

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Sometimes pop-ups can be helpful. As a legitimate example, my online bank has interest-rate information that I can view. When I click on this link, it pops up another window showing the interest-rate information without taking me away from the current page I’m viewing.

The term adware also applies to software that is free but includes advertisements. The user is well aware that the advertisements appear, and has the option to purchase a version of the software that does not include the ads. All of this is aboveboard without any intention of misleading the user.

Check out these other posts on malware.

Remember this

Spyware monitors a user’s computer. Pop-ups are annoying windows that appear while browsing. Many pop-ups are adware designed to market products to users.


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Q. Of the following malware types, which one is MOST likely to monitor a user’s computer?

A. Trojan

B. Spyware

C. Adware

D. Ransomware

Answer is B. Spyware monitors a user’s computer and activity.

Trojans often install backdoor accounts, but they don’t necessarily monitor systems and activity.

Adware typically causes pop-up windows for advertising, and although it might monitor the user to target ads, not all adware monitors users.

Ransomware is primarily concerned with getting the user to make a ransom payment.

See Chapter 6 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on malware types.

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