Malware vs Ransomware: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that Cyber attacks are increasing exponentially as technology develops? As technology grows cybercriminals’ techniques to break into systems grow. Nobody is safe!

What are cybercriminals you ask? Cybercriminals are people or teams of people who developed codes to infiltrate weak devices and unprotected software that allows them to access files on your devices for a profit. 

By making the public aware of cybercrime and its forms will make it easier for potential victims to identify it and deal with it before it has any impact on yourself as an individual or on corporate companies. 

Let us look at two such cybercrime.  Malware vs Ransomware.

Malware vs Ransomware – The Difference 

When distinguishing between malware vs ransomware, what’s the difference?

Malware is a broad name for computer programs designed to damage, disrupt, or hack a device. As we have learned how to deal with malware attacks another form of threat has arisen. This is called ransomware. 

Ransomware is specifically designed programs with malicious intent. Ransomware will block access to your device, using advanced encryption, until a ransom fee is paid over for the decryption keys. In most cases, it is technically very difficult to do encryption oneself.

Let us look more closely at the differences between Malware and Ransomware.

What is Malware?

Malware is the portmanteau of malicious and software, it is an umbrella term used to cover ransomware and viruses.

There are many types of malware – here are four:

Spyware: Sometimes referred to as keyloggers, this nasty code is capable of allowing hackers to spy on all the device’s activity. It can record and send, without your knowledge, information such as websites you go to, user names and passwords, and even banking details.

Bots: This is the shortened word for ’robots’. Bots are very clever programs that can infiltrate devices, connect them to the internet, and start sending information. The bot is often part of a greater network called a botnet. Bots are also able to record, expose passwords, and steal personal and financial information.

Rootkits: This is a very sophisticated form of attack software. Rootkits have been designed to gather just about every bit of information you can imagine.

Worms: These are similar to viruses. They spread through networks automatically and quickly. Instead of needing a host file to spread, they are stand-alone programs that self-replicate.

What Does Malware Do?

Malware attacks computers and other devices, it is designed to slow down basic functions and breach security. Hackers use it to harvest personal information, take over computer devices, and even record activities.

How Does Malware Spread?

Malware is built to infect devices in a few ways. It will circulate using file sharing. They will attach themselves to free downloadable software.

They embed themselves in email attachments from visiting compromised websites.

How Harmful is Malware?

Malware can have the following impact:

  • Identity theft

  • Credit card fraud and other types of personal and private data theft

  • Difficulty starting or shutting down

  • Corrupt programs and software

  • Dramatically slow device performance

  • Theft of data

Dealing with Malware

Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Keep Your Personal Information Safe.

  • Use Multiple Strong Passwords.

  • Back-Up Your Files.

  • Install Anti-Virus/Malware Software.

  • Keep Your Anti-Virus Software Up to Date.

  • Run Regularly Scheduled Scans with Your Anti-Virus Software

  • Keep Your Operating System Current.

  • Secure Your Network.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware gets onto the device using devious methods, often going unnoticed for long periods. It encrypts files and programs and demands a ransom for their release.

Hackers lay traps, once the trap has been fallen into, the software is placed on the device or network and sits-in-waiting. At some point in time, the hacker will become confident that the rootkit has not been discovered and quarantined. It is then the trap is sprung by the hacker, launching a program designed to hijack the device.

What Does Ransomware Do?

Ransomware encrypts your network and files completely. Without the decryption key, you cannot access anything on your network or devices. It is this key that the hacker ‘sells’ to you when you pay the ransom – although there is no guarantee.

How Does Ransomware Spread?

Spam emails and in some cases Instant Messaging services are the most common mode of infection. Hackers trick users into opening an ‘official-looking’ email attachment. Thus, downloading the ransomware to their device.

Often, these emails look like they are sent by friends, colleagues, and family members.

How Can Ransomware Hurt Me?

Ransomware exploits its victims for money. You will be faced with the choice of paying the ransom or losing your files and programs.

How is Ransomware Different from Viruses and Malware?

Ransomware is a type of malware. Ransomware grabs data, locks it, and codes it.  Thereafter, cybercriminals contact you and force you to pay a ransom to unlock and decode information on your device. 

Dealing with Ransomware

Here are a few steps you can take to take control after a ransomware attack:

  • Have multiple backups, with at least one copy off-site, that is, not physically connected to your network.
  • If you do get infected with ransomware, immediately isolate your backups. Do not attempt a restore until you are absolutely sure it is not infected – this will need some technical knowledge. If in doubt, simply disconnect your computer or device and take it to an expert.
  • Before attempting to decrypt or recover any files reinstall the operating system first. There will be traces of malware deeply embedded in the operating system that are unlikely to be disinfectable. A fresh installation of the OS reduces this risk dramatically.
  • Think very carefully before paying the ransom, in most cases, this is not recommended. Not only are the chances of getting your files and data back very low, paying the ransom finances cybercrime.
  • To make sure the device is free of ransomware install and run antivirus software. This is to be done after reinstalling the operating system.

When you are quite sure there is no ransomware in the device, restore your backups. During the process frequently run the antivirus software.

Anti-virus and anti-malware software should be kept up to date!

The People Factor

Cyber nasties rely on FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt to get the results they want.

Take time to educate the workforce on malware vs ransomware.

Mistakes can and will happen. Being prepared, and having the best possible preventative measures in place goes a long way to securing your company’s network.  This will prevent unsafe data and avoids reputational damage. Never mind the legal implications!

Get in touch with us for help with all your computer needs!