What is a Malware Attack?

March 20, 2023 • April Miller


In today’s digitally driven world, prioritizing personal cybersecurity has never been more important. As more consumers purchase smartphones, tablets and laptops, it’s becoming more apparent that cybercriminals will stop at nothing to launch attacks, steal data and breach networks.

One common type of cyberattack is malware. Malware is a harmful attack that can cause severe damage to someone using digital devices. Learn more about malware attacks, how they work and best practices to prevent becoming a cybercriminal’s next malware victim.

Definition of Malware

Malware is short for malicious software or harmful programs that cause harm to users’ devices, servers or networks without their knowledge. Anything affected by malware often suffers severe damage in different ways, such as:

  • Devices become locked or unusable
  • Cybercriminals take control of a device to launch further attacks
  • Data can become stolen, deleted or encrypted
  • Login credentials can become compromised
  • Cybercriminals use services that cost victims money

Malware is usually distributed through websites, links or emails. However, these types of software are sometimes hidden in seemingly innocuous files.

Basic Types of Malware

There are too many types of malware to count. According to Statista, the number of malware types rose from 28.84 million in 2010 to almost 678 million in 2020.

Here is a short list of the basic, common types of malware:

  • Virus
  • Worm
  • Trojan 
  • Bots
  • Cryptomining
  • Keyloggers
  • Hybrid
  • Malvertising
  • Adware
  • Ransomware
  • Spyware

These types of malware are some of threat actors’ most widely used attack methods. 

How Malware Works

There are several ways malware can affect your device, but one of the most frequent ways is when users download files from the internet. Thousands of files circulate through the ether of the internet every day, many of which could potentially contain malicious code.

Each type of malware works in different ways. For example, adware involves users clicking on malicious links in online advertisements. Worms are self-replicating malware that can spread to other computers and resources. 

In a ransomware attack, threat actors encrypt sensitive data and hold the key to decrypt that data. A cybercriminal only gives up the key if the victim makes a ransom payment, often in cryptocurrency.

Tips for Preventing Malware Attacks

Because malware attacks are becoming more widespread, you must implement the best cybersecurity practices regarding your online presence. Here are some malware prevention tips to protect yourself while using digital devices.

  • Install anti-virus and malware detection software onto your computer to defend against common threats.
  • Employ strong, unique and hard-to-guess passwords for all of your online accounts.
  • Be sure to update your password every so often to prevent hacks.
  • Never click on any suspicious or unsolicited links from unknown senders.
  • Keep your devices’ applications, software and operating systems (OS) up to date.
  • Use multifactor (sometimes called two-factor) authentication (MFA/2FA) and biometric login credentials on your devices.
  • Use email security tools to protect your inbox.

Follow these tips to prevent malware attacks from affecting your computer or network.

Beware of Malware Attacks

The average user faces several cybersecurity threats, whether malware, phishing, crypto scams and more. Unfortunately, the cybersecurity landscape is expanding, making it easier for cybercriminals to do their worst. Therefore, malware attacks are becoming increasingly common — it’s up to you to protect yourself.