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These are the top 5 malware strains to worry about in 2021


Make sure you avoid these at your peril

Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to attack their victims, and are constantly adapting their techniques and methods to try and access data and make money. Some choose to try and sneak their way into systems through spear-phishing attacks. Others take advantage of social engineering skills to try and access information. Some lock up data using ransomware and demand payment.

The range of methods available to cybercriminals is almost limitless, and there’s a significant secondary market in reselling successful strains of malware. But what should you be paying attention to? 

Here are five of the worst malware strains to watch out for.

1. Adware

According to Malware Bytes, adware has become a much more prominent threat in the last few months. In 2019, approximately 24 million Windows adware detections and 30 million Mac detections were logged by the security company. One single strain, called NewTab, which delivered its payload through adverts, was responsible for 28 million detections by itself last year. 

2. Ransomware

We know that ransomware is increasingly popular among cybercriminals and that they’re becoming more audacious in the victims they attack. Not content with locking up the systems of individuals, hackers have moved on to big companies as well as government agencies, hospitals, and key public services. The reasoning behind it is obvious: the bigger the amount of data locked up, and the more important that data is to people’s everyday lives, the more likely people are to pay up.

One large recent victim of ransomware is technology service provider Blackbaud, which has reportedly paid a ransom for its data, which includes major charities and universities worldwide. Key virulent strains of ransomware include Ryuk, Sodinokibi, and Phobos.

3. Banking trojans

Banking details are some of the most personal information we can provide – and they are the keys to the kingdom for criminals. Little wonder, then, that the Center for Internet Security identified banking trojans such as ZeuS as one of its biggest threats of 2020. ZeuS accounted for 22% of malware detections monitored by the Center for Internet Security in February 2020. Given the malware itself is nearly a decade old, it shows impressive staying power – and a potentially large payola for criminals deciding to utilize it to attack victims.

4. Remote access trojans

Remote access trojans are another key area of growth, which leaves victims concerned and conned when they fall foul of an attack. NanoCore, which hides itself in an Excel spreadsheet before allowing more malicious software to download and execute files, visit websites, and add registry keys through remove commands, is a significant threat because of its ability to needle into the deepest crevices of a computer and hide without detection, all the while allowing hackers access to files that they can siphon off with ease.

5. Mobile malware

We increasingly spend our time on our phones, rather than our computers, and so canny cybercriminals have recognized they need to go to where the users are. As a result, mobile malware has been a growing concern, say Locke McCloud, with the rise of mobile web traffic meaning that more hackers are launching attacks off the back of unreputable apps.

Downloaded outside official app stores – or sometimes managing to sneak their way into the Google Play Store – these apps hide a payload that allows threat actors to access all of your most personal data. From who you talk to, to where you go, and the passwords to your bank accounts, social media profiles and personal photos, it’s an easy way for bad actors to launch any number of attacks against you. They can even try to extort more money or information from you by using your personal content.

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