Hacking and Malware

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Hacking

Hacking is an endeavor to abuse a computer system or a private network in a computer.  It is an illegal access to or control over computer network security systems for some dishonest purpose.

Hackers

Hackers are intelligent people and highly skilled in computers.  It requires more intelligence and expertise to break a security system than to create one.

Categorization of Hackers

  • White hat professionals – they hack to evaluate their own security systems to make it more hack-proof.  In most cases, they are part of the same organization.
  • Black hat hackers – they hack to take control over the system for personal gains.  They can impair, strip or even impede authorized users from entering the system.  They do this by discovering ambiguities and flaws in the system.  They are sometimes called crackers.
  • Grey hat hackers – they comprise of curious people who have just about enough computer language skills to allow them to hack a system to locate potential loopholes in the network security system.

Grey hats differ from black hats in the sense that grey hats inform the admin of the network system about the weaknesses discovered in the system, while the black hats are only looking for personal gains.

All kinds of hacking are considered illegal except for the work done by white hat hackers.

Malware

Malware, short for malicious software, is any program or file that is detrimental to a computer user.  They can perform a variety of functions, including stealing, encrypting or deleting sensitive data, altering or hijacking core computing functions and monitoring users’ computer activity without their permission.

Types of Malware

  • Virus – the most common type of malware.  It can run by itself and spreads by infecting other programs or files.
  • Worm – can self-replicate without a host program.  It spreads without any human interaction or directives from the malware authors.
  • Trojan horse – is designed to appear as a legitimate program.  It executes its malicious functions upon activation after installation.
  • Spyware – is designed to collect information and data on users and observe their activity without users’ knowledge.

Types of Malware that have Specific Purpose

  • Ransomware – is designed to infect a user’s system and encrypt the data.  Cybercriminals then demand a ransom payment from the victim in exchange for decrypting the system’s data.
  • Rootkit – is designed to obtain administrator-level access to the victim’s system.  Once installed, the program grants threat actors privileged access to the system.
  • Remote Access Trojan (RAT) – is a malicious program that secretly creates a way into an infected system that authorizes threat actors to remote access it without notifying the user or the system’s security programs.

How Malware Works

A malware can be spread in different ways in order to infect devices and networks.

  • Malicious programs can be transported physically to a system through a USB drive or other means.
  • Malware can be distributed in the internet where it is automatically downloaded without user’s approval or knowledge.  This is initiated when a user visits a malicious website.
  • Phishing attack is another type of malware delivery where an email is masked as a legitimate message which contains malicious link or attachment that is used to deliver the malware.

Similar Programs

There are other types of programs that are similar to malware but are distinctly different.

  • Adware can have unfavorable effects on users because of annoying ads and downgrading performance of the device or system.  However, adware is not the same as malware, since there isn’t a malicious purpose to harm users or their systems.

However, there are instances where adware has harmful threats.  Some adware has spyware-like features that collect information without users’ knowledge or consent.