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4 Scary Facts About Malware Variants That Should Concern You

Cybersecurity

When a piece of malware successfully targets a vulnerability, two significant things occur: 

  1. Security experts race to pinpoint what vulnerabilities are being targeted and how they can be patched.  
  2. Hackers around the world take note of the success and start investigating the malware for their own use. 

Most of the time, the second one takes place faster.  

Since malware codes are typically available from sources like the Dark Web, hackers can easily tweak the original program to a more threatening one. Hackers do that by patching the malware the same way it’s done with other forms of software. They remove weaknesses and old mistakes that may have hindered them from getting as much mileage as possible from the initial virus by updating it.  

Each version that’s created and unleashed is a variant of the original attack. 

As a result, an updated malware program can and will attack different types of data, protect itself more effectively, find new openings to exploit, and more.  

Today, new malware variants are on the rise, posing new threats to the security infrastructure of your business network. To ensure that your cybersecurity can stand against these attacks, you must first have a clear understanding of what these new variants are and how they can impact your business.  

As a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP), ITS understands that there’s not one concrete solution to these cyber threats as they will only keep evolving in the succeeding years. This is why it is our goal to educate clients about it and help them navigate through the changes. In this article, we listed down the four things you need to know about malware variants.  

4 Scary Facts You Must Know About Malware Variants 

Malware doesn’t die when security provides patches to stop it. Variants continue to live on for years into the future, and some of those will be even more dangerous than the original attack. Knowing what you’re up against can help you alleviate the risk.  

Here are four things you should know about these malware variants: 

Malware mish mash icon1. Most malware is a mishmash of techniques formed over the years 

A malicious type of crowdsourcing quickly emerges where hackers use their own approaches and knowledge to create a variant and sell it as a new and improved version of the older malware.  

This is why we see a number of variants in the months following a famous hack—multiple hackers work to improve it and capitalize on the improvements. 

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Circle icons (1)-12. Variants help old malware re-emerge 

Another problem with variants is that they can lie dormant for some time and then spring back to life right before your eyes.  

This is an unpleasant surprise for security experts. Malware that they haven’t seen in years suddenly comes back, ready to wreak havoc again. This time it’s loaded with the latest tricks and updates. These variants allow for some ancient malware to pose a new threat. 

An example of this is Locky, an infamous ransomware that was attacked in 2016. The attack was put down, and subsequent variants didn’t do much damage. However, new variants have emerged. The latest software variant was utilizing a new method of infection via clever phishing emails that encouraged the spread of Locky via a suspect download. 

As the name suggests, this ransomware steals access to sensitive files and locks them down until the victim pays the ransom. It’s a good example of what a long-term headache malware can become. 

Malware Variants3. There are a lot of variants 

Variants aren’t like singular sequels–they are more like an ant queen giving birth to a new colony. Any small change is enough to create a new variant, and with hackers working around the world to enhance their attacks, the stream of variants is more or less unending. 

According to AV-Test, there were over a hundred million new malware samples since the previous year and 12 million new variants per month. To put that into perspective, 400,000 new variants emerge every day! Many of these variants are relatively harmless; however, some are much more dangerous. Security experts must find out which these are before the hackers beat them to it. 

Exploit New Vulnerabilities4. Variants exploit new vulnerabilities 

The worst types of variants are those that develop new tricks to bypass the latest security measures. Remember the Locky ransomware resurgence we mentioned? It was retooled to show up as an unknown file 

This wasn’t a problem for security filters that operated on a default-deny basis where any unrecognized file is blocked. However, many businesses didn’t have this stringent protection, so it posed a threat, even though they were protected from the older version. 

Boost your network security against malware variants now 

If you’ve been in the business for years, you’ve probably heard of the different threats to your cybersecurity and have already implemented an appropriate solution to mitigate them. Do you think that’s enough to protect your business?  

Well, you should know by now that it’s not 

Cyberthreats evolve just as fast as technology. If you’re going to settle with the solution you already have because it worked in the past, there’s a high chance you’ll not survive the next cyberattack. For this reason, experts suggest always updating devices and upgrading your system’s cybersecurity to ensure that all security flaws are covered. These quick tips can help you protect your business from cyberattacks: 

Protect Your Business from a Cyber Attack

Here at ITS, we’ve helped hundreds of clients bolster their cybersecurity by providing and updating solutions as necessary for their businesses. If you want to learn more, this free e-book is full of practical information for business owners, such as yourself, who want to improve their data security.  

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