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What exactly is Malware and how serious is it?


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#1 bigbrown411

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Posted 04 December 2013 - 11:26 PM

I'm asking this question because I'm quite confused. A month or two ago, I had to take my computer to the ResNet at my University because I couldn't gain access into my computer. My computer wouldn't recognize my password and I thought someone hacked into my computer (I was wrong. I just put the wrong password(s) in). Anyways, they fixed the problem and did a bunch of different scans using Malwarebytes, Microsoft Security Essentials, and some other program(s). They returned my laptop and told me I had 250+ sources of Malware on my computer. I'm confused about this because I have a 2 year subscription to Webroot SecureAnywhere installed on my computer. I haven't had any problems with my computer other than 2 blue screens since I installed the software, which was back in November 2012. Also, I've been VERY caucious about which sites I access. I go on less than 30 websites on my laptop (I commit most of my time at my school's computer lab/library area). I'm quite confused by this. So, what exactly is Malware? How serious of a risk are my personal files put at with Malware on my computer? What's the best way to eliminate all Malware on my computer?


Edited by bigbrown411, 04 December 2013 - 11:28 PM.


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#2 ddeerrff

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 12:11 AM

With a high number like that, I strongly suspect your computer guys used a registry cleaner and that found "250+ errors".  A registry error does not mean malware, nor does it typically cause any problems with your machine. 


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#3 Blade

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 04:14 AM

Malware is an extremely broad category of programs. Meaning malicious software, the term traditionally encompasses a very large variety of subcategories. These programs range from annoyances such as popups and unwanted advertisements, to password and other information stealing programs, to applications which can take over your computer and allow an attacker to make use of it, to ransomware which will restrict access to your computer until you pay a ransom, to outright destructive applications which can cause irreparable damage to hardware, software, and data.

Additionally, it's not uncommon for people to use the term 'Malware' incorrectly. They may actually be talking about Potentially Unwanted Programs (programs which are not outright malicious in nature, but which often come bundled with other programs to serve as additional advertising revenue or a source of data mining for publishers), Registry "Errors" as ddeerrff mentioned, third party tracking cookies (small packets of data on your computer to allow an advertiser to make connections between what sites you visit), or a variety of other topics.

Honestly, without seeing the list of detected threats it's impossible to say what kind of material was on your machine, and how serious it is.

Here are some suggestions on Malware prevention:I also recommend that you keep your operating system, and all programs you use, up to date at all times. An excellent utility to help you with this is Secunia Personal Software Inspector.


If you would like more information about Malware I would refer you to the Wikipedia article here. If you have specific questions don't hesitate to post here and ask them. However, the question as you have phrased it is so broad and massive it's impossible for me to answer completely.

Hope that helps.

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#4 quietman7

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 11:30 AM

Here are a few more helpful resources.

Glossary of Malware Related Terms
Best Practices for Safe Computing - Prevention of Malware Infection
How Malware Spreads - How did I get infected
About those Toolbars and Add-ons which change your browser settings - Removal Tips
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#5 Crazy Cat

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 05:16 PM

Malware/Spyware can be hardware also, not just software.


 

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#6 Blade

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 10:01 AM

Malware/Spyware can be hardware also, not just software.


Not really. Malware as a definition is "Malicious Software." As all malware is computer code, it is therefore software. There are some variants of malware which can patch firmware, which is a special kind of software which is used by hardware components at the lowest software levels, which is what you may be referring to. This is still software though. Hardware is just metal and plastic and wiring and physical things. It doesn't actually do anything without instructions, which is what software is.

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#7 quietman7

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 12:45 PM

Malware, short for malicious software, is software used to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It can appear in the form of code, scripts, active content, and other software.

What is Malware
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#8 Crazy Cat

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 08:52 PM


Malware/Spyware can be hardware also, not just software.

(1) Not really. Malware as a definition is "Malicious Software." As all malware is computer code, it is therefore software. (2) There are some variants of malware which can patch firmware, which is a special kind of software which is used by hardware components at the lowest software levels, which is what you may be referring to. This is still software though. (3) Hardware is just metal and plastic and wiring and physical things. It doesn't actually do anything without instructions, which is what software is.

"Malware" is a term for any software that gets installed on your machine and performs unwanted tasks, often for some third party's benefit. http://ist.mit.edu/security/malware

(1) The "Malware" as a definition is too restrictive implying "Malicious Software." only. My comment, "Malware/Spyware can be hardware also, not just software." implies to broaden the "Malware" definition to include "Malicious Hardware." devices.

Software Malware: that gets installed on your machine and performs unwanted tasks, often for some third party's benefit.

Hardware Malware: that gets installed on your machine and performs unwanted tasks, often for some third party's benefit.
Hardware keylogger. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardware_keylogger

(2) Yes, this http://www.stewin.org/papers/dimvap15-stewin.pdf

(3) A Hardware keylogger (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardware_keylogger) requires no software installation on the operating system.

Detecting Hardware keylogger. http://conference.hackinthebox.org/hitbsecconf2010kul/materials/D1T1%20-%20Fabian%20Mihailowitsch%20-%20Detecting%20Hardware%20Keyloggers.pdf

 
@ quietman7: Refer to (1).
 

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#9 quietman7

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Posted 09 December 2013 - 09:42 AM

I have always put Keyloggers in a separate category since they can have legitimate uses in contexts where an authorized user, business IT tech or administrator has knowingly installed them. Even a parent may use a keylogging program to record their children's online activities or a suspicious spouse might install one to keep track of their partner. It's the misuse of a keylogger (and similar software tools) that makes it's action malicious rather than the keylogger itself.
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#10 Crazy Cat

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 05:39 PM

I have always put Keyloggers in a separate category since they can have legitimate uses in contexts where an authorized user, business IT tech or administrator has knowingly installed them. Even a parent may use a keylogging program to record their children's online activities or a suspicious spouse might install one to keep track of their partner. It's the misuse of a keylogger (and similar software tools) that makes it's action malicious rather than the keylogger itself.

A hardware keylogger is only one of many hardware malware devices - there are many more insidious hardware devices I care/will not name.
Splitting hairs over the moral or immoral, legal or illegal, philosophical implecations of using "SPYING" software or hardware devices, is a debate that will cascade into/like Abbott and Costello's; who's on first, what's on second. www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg

Edited by Crazy Cat, 10 December 2013 - 05:39 PM.

 

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#11 quietman7

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 06:03 PM

I don't know....third base!  :hysterical:

 

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#12 slgrieb

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 09:08 PM

With a high number like that, I strongly suspect your computer guys used a registry cleaner and that found "250+ errors".  A registry error does not mean malware, nor does it typically cause any problems with your machine. 

250 items of malware detected isn't a particularly high number. Just last week I ran a MBAM Quick Scan on a client's computer and removed  679 PUPs, Trojans, and Adware items. My personal best was achieved many years ago with SpyBot S&D when I removed 29,578 infections from a client's computer. Sorry for the crappy photo quality, but I expected the computer to explode at any second, and you may need to magnify the image to read the total.


Edited by slgrieb, 11 December 2013 - 09:11 PM.

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#13 Crazy Cat

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 04:22 AM

I don't know....third base!  :hysterical:
 
We are showing our age again.

Just an old crazy alley cat...I don't know....third base!
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#14 quietman7

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 09:21 AM

With a high number like that, I strongly suspect your computer guys used a registry cleaner and that found "250+ errors".  A registry error does not mean malware, nor does it typically cause any problems with your machine.

250 items of malware detected isn't a particularly high number. Just last week I ran a MBAM Quick Scan on a client's computer and removed  679 PUPs, Trojans, and Adware items.

No it isn't a high number as you indicate. I have seen much worst. However, keep in mind that some security scanners will count the removal of cookies which pushes the total way up. If the removal is mostly cookies...then that is no big deal as cookies are not a threat.
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#15 slgrieb

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 09:54 PM

 

 

With a high number like that, I strongly suspect your computer guys used a registry cleaner and that found "250+ errors".  A registry error does not mean malware, nor does it typically cause any problems with your machine.

250 items of malware detected isn't a particularly high number. Just last week I ran a MBAM Quick Scan on a client's computer and removed  679 PUPs, Trojans, and Adware items.

 

No it isn't a high number as you indicate. I have seen much worst. However, keep in mind that some security scanners will count the removal of cookies which pushes the total way up. If the removal is mostly cookies...then that is no big deal as cookies are not a threat.

 

In any case, the real issue is quality, not quantity. MyWeb, FunWeb, and a lot of the common stuff isn't particularly damaging on it's own, but it can serve as a conduit (via ads) for nastier stuff. And then there's the stuff that's really nasty in it's own right.There are way too many removal tools that like to find cookies to bring up their batting scores, and I think current Norton products and SuperAntispyware are at the top of the list. Sorry for any toes I've hurt.

 

I also think that malware authors are getting increasingly devious about re-loading their stuff after removal. A couple of weeks ago, I did a malware removal that involved some of Conduit's junk, and afterward the computer kept generating an error message at startup that somesuch file couldn't be found. Courtesy of MS community, it turns out that the command trying to run the deleted file ran as a Scheduled Task at user logon. Since then, I've taken a much closer look at Scheduled Tasks, and it's surprising how many scheduled updates point to either obviously malicious sites or unknown sites and programs.


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