The defense strategies against malware differ according to the type of malware but most can be thwarted by installing antivirus software, firewalls, applying regular patches to reduce zero-day attacks, securing networks from intrusion, having regular backups and isolating infected systems. Malware is now being designed to evade antivirus software detection algorithms.
Many security products classify unauthorised key generators as PUPs, although they frequently carry true malware in addition to their ostensible purpose. In fact, Kammerstetter et. al. (2012) estimated that as much as 55% of key generators could contain malware and that about 36% malicious key generators were not detected by antivirus software.
Antivirus software typically uses two techniques to detect malware: (i) static analysis and (ii) dynamic analysis. Static analysis involves studying the software code of a potentially malicious program and producing a signature of that program. This information is then used to compare scanned files by an antivirus program. Because this approach is not useful for malware that has not yet been studied, antivirus software can use dynamic analysis to monitor how the program runs on a computer and block it if it performs unexpected activity.
The aim of any malware is to conceal itself from detection by users or antivirus software. Detecting potential malware is difficult for two reasons. The first is that it is difficult to determine if software is malicious. The second is that malware uses technical measures to make it more difficult to detect it. An estimated 33% of malware is not detected by antivirus software.
The most common anti-detection mechanism is to encrypt the malware payload so that antivirus software does not recognize the signature. More advanced malware is capable of changing its form into variants so they the signatures differ enough to make detection unlikely. Other common techniques used to evade detection include from common to uncommon: (1) evasion of analysis and detection by fingerprinting the environment when executed; (2) confusing automated tools' detection methods. This allows malware to avoid detection by technologies such as signature-based antivirus software by changing the server used by the malware; (3) timing-based evasion. This is when malware runs at certain times or following certain actions taken by the user, so it executes during certain vulnerable periods, such as during the boot process, while remaining dormant the rest of the time; (4) obfuscating internal data so that automated tools do not detect the malware; (v) information hiding techniques, namely stegomalware; and (5) fileless malware which runs within memory instead of using files and utilizes existing system tools to carry out malicious acts. This reduces the amount of forensic artifacts available to analyze. Recently these types of attacks have become more frequent with a 432% increase in 2017 and makeup 35% of the attacks in 2018. Such attacks are not easy to perform but are becoming more prevalent with the help of exploit-kits.
A credential attack occurs when a user account with administrative privileges is cracked and that account is used to provide malware with appropriate privileges. Typically, the attack succeeds because the weakest form of account security is used, which is typically a short password that can be cracked using a dictionary or brute force attack. Using strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication can reduce this risk. With the latter enabled, even if an attacker can crack the password, they cannot use the account without also having the token possessed by the legitimate user of that account.
Anti-malware (sometimes also called antivirus) programs block and remove some or all types of malware. For example, Microsoft Security Essentials (for Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7) and Windows Defender (for Windows 8, 10 and 11) provides real-time protection. The Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool removes malicious software from the system. Additionally, several capable antivirus software programs are available for free download from the Internet (usually restricted to non-commercial use). Tests found some free programs to be competitive with commercial ones.
A specific component of anti-malware software, commonly referred to as an on-access or real-time scanner, hooks deep into the operating system's core or kernel and functions in a manner similar to how certain malware itself would attempt to operate, though with the user's informed permission for protecting the system. Any time the operating system accesses a file, the on-access scanner checks if the file infected or not. Typically, when an infected file is found, execution is stopped and the file is quarantined to prevent further damage with the intention to prevent irreversible system damage. Most AVs allow users to override this behaviour. This can have a considerable performance impact on the operating system, though the degree of impact is dependent on how many pages it creates in virtual memory.
Because many malware components are installed as a result of browser exploits or user error, using security software (some of which are anti-malware, though many are not) to \"sandbox\" browsers (essentially isolate the browser from the computer and hence any malware induced change) can also be effective in helping to restrict any damage done.
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