What is Malware?

The Fight Against Malware - A Detailed Analysis of the IT Threat Landscape

Malware is a serious threat that has the potential to penetrate IT systems and cause significant corporate damage. Malware stands for "malicious software" and belongs to the category of malicious programs. This software is designed to perform unwanted and harmful activities on a computer, mobile device, network or other electronic device, and is a software that is secretly installed or executed without the user's knowledge or consent. Malware is developed and deployed to help cybercriminals achieve their malicious goals; these range from financial gain intentions, data theft for espionage, operating system corruption to attacks on hostile states.

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How Does Malware Work?

Malware can compromise systems in different ways. Although the type of malware varies, malware generally follows certain steps to achieve ist malicious goals:


Malware enters the system through security holes or vulnerabilities. This can be caused by opening infected email attachments, visiting compromised websites, downloading infected files, or exploiting vulnerabilities in a software or operating system.


The malware installs itself or hides inside a legitimate file to make it harder to detect. It may also use rootkit techniques to hide at deeper levels of the operating system, making it difficult to detect.

Carrying out malicious activities

Depending on its type, malware can perform various malicious functions.

A few examples are:

  • Deleting or encrypting files
  • Recording keystrokes
  • Stealing confidential information
  • Sending spam emails
  • Executing denial-of-service attacks, or
  • Opening backdoors for remote access


Worms and other types of malware can automatically spread to other systems by using network connections or sending infected files to other users. Thus, the software can spread to various devices and cause significant damage.

Camouflage and disguise

Malware can use various methods to evade detection. It can change file names, infiltrate legitimate system processes, hide from security software, or employ anti-analysis techniques to make it difficult to function.

The attackers can remotely control certain malware types. They can receive and execute commands, download updates to improve their functionality, or update themselves to bypass security measures.

The Most Dangerous Malware Types at a Glance

Trojans, ransomware and more - do you know the various types of malware are currently hiding in corporate networks and trying to infiltrate your systems? The number of different types of malware is constantly increasing. Of the several types of malware that currently exist, the ones listed below are the most common.

Trojans, Ransomware and More: Malware Types Explained


Viruses are one of the oldest and most well-known types of malware. They corrupt programs or files and spread by attaching themselves to other executable files. Viruses can delete files, corrupt data, interfere with system functions, or perform unwanted activities to cause damage.


Worms are self-replicating malware that spread automatically across networks without a user actively executing an infected file. They move from one system to another by exploiting security holes and vulnerabilities. Worms can cause significant damage by consuming bandwidth, overloading system resources, or stealing sensitive data.

Trojan horse

A Trojan horse is a piece of malware that disguises itself as real software and can infiltrate a system. It can be disguised as a useful application, computer game, or any other program that appears to be harmless. The Trojan grants attackers access to the infected system once it is activated to steal personal data, gain access later or perform other malicious activities.


Ransomware is a particularly dangerous type of malware that encrypts files or a user’s entire system and then demands a ransom to release the data. Ransomware can have a negative impact on businesses and individuals, as it can cause significant financial damage and business disruption.


Spyware is a type of malware that secretly installs itself on a system and monitors what the user is doing. Keystrokes, passwords, browsing activity and other personal data are monitored and collected. This data is then sent to the attacker, who can use it to commit identity theft, fraud, or other illegal activities.


Adware is a type of malware that displays advertisements on an infected system. It is often installed together with other free programs or software bundles. While adware isn’t as harmful as other types of malware, it can harass users, slow down system performance, or collect personal data to display targeted advertisements.


Malware programs called keyloggers secretly capture keystrokes. They can steal passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive information. Subsequently, this data can be used for fraud or identity theft.


Rootkits are a particularly dangerous type of malware. This malware allows attackers to gain unrestricted system access rights and hide their presence. They can be used to hide other malware, bypass security precautions, or completely lose control of the system.

Signs of Malware Infection – How to Recognize Cyber Attacks

Unexplained system slowdown:

If your computer suddenly slows down and even simple tasks take a lot of time, this could be a malware infection.

Frequent crashes or system freezes:

If your system crashes or freezes more often for no apparent reason, this could be a malware infection.

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Pop-up ads and unwanted ads:

Aggressive pop-ups, unwanted ads or links to dubious websites can indicate adware infections.

Altered browser settings:

A browser hijacking malware could be behind it if your default homepage, search engine, or other browser settings have been inexplicably changed and you haven’t done it yourself.

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New programs or toolbars that appear suddenly:

If you suddenly see new programs, toolbars, or extensions that you didn't install yourself, it's possible that your system is infected with unwanted software.

Missing or corrupted files:

If files are suddenly missing or inaccessible, it may indicate ransomware or other malicious programs.

Unusual data consumption or network activity:

If your data consumption or network traffic has increased significantly, this could be a malware infection.

Password problems:

If your passwords stop working or your online accounts have been compromised, it could indicate a keylogger or spyware infection.

Security software malfunctions:

If your firewall or antivirus software suddenly stops working or is disabled, it could be a sign that malware is trying to evade detection.

Unknown processes or suspicious activity in Task Manager:

Check Task Manager for any unknown or suspicious processes running in the background. It is possible that this indicates a malware infection.

It's important to note that these signs don't always clearly indicate a malware infection, as there could be other causes for this as well. However, if you notice several of these clues at once, you should check your system for possible malware infections and take the right measures to eliminate them.

Protecting Hospitals from Malware & Cyber Attacks

We are pleased that our ExeonTrace NDR helps Solothurner Spitäler AG detect and respond to threats quickly, keeping their network of four hospitals and the data of over 30,000 patients in canton Solothurn protected.

Discover how advanced network security can protect your business and disarm cyber attacks before they can cause any damage by watching this case study video. Here, Patrick Käppeli, Network & Security Engineer, explains the daily benefits that NDR provides his security team and the organization’s critical data.

Malware Protection Strategies: How to Avoid the Malicious Software

Malware protection is critical to protecting your data, systems, and privacy. Here are some important safety precautions you can take:

  • Use reliable security software: Install high-quality antivirus and antimalware software on all devices. Make sure the software is updated regularly to counter new threats.

  • Keep your software up to date: Update your operating system, applications and security software regularly. Patches and updates close security holes that could be exploited by malware.

  • Be careful when opening emails and attachments: Be suspicious of emails from unknown senders or suspicious content. Do not open attachments or click on links in such emails unless you are absolutely sure of their safety.

  • Avoid visiting unsafe websites: Avoid accessing questionable websites or downloading files from untrusted sources. Look for the security icon, such as a lock as a symbol) in the browser's address bar to ensure that the connection is encrypted.

  • Enable the firewall: Make sure your firewall is enabled to block unwanted traffic and make it harder for malware to get in.

  • Use strong and unique passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for your accounts that consist of a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Use a separate password for each account to minimize the risk of compromise.

  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Use the added security layer of two-factor authentication to ensure that even if your password is compromised, your account remains protected.

  • Be careful with USB and external devices: Avoid connecting unknown or unsecured USB flash drives or external devices to your computer, as they could potentially contain malicious files or malware.

  • Back up your data regularly: Make regular backups of your important files and store them in a safe place. In case of malware infection, you can easily restore your data without paying a ransom.

  • Raise awareness and train your colleagues and employees: Conduct training and awareness activities for employees to educate them about the risks of malware. Encourage your employees to practice security-conscious behavior and report suspicious activity.

The All-Round Strike Against All Threats in your Network

Security solutions like ExeonTrace: effective protection from “simple” malware to “Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)”, i.e., very advanced, persistent threats.

When it comes to malware protection, it is crucial to deploy effective security solutions that are designed to prevent intrusion into the system. Protection hardware and software targeted at the endpoint or endpoints include firewalls or so-called, security solution that monitors endpoints to detect attacks from the outside, such as via PCs, file servers, smartphones or Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

Most of the time, however, threats, especially more sophisticated ones, are already “in the system” and can only be stopped by analyzing network traffic with a so-called NDR (Network Detection and Response) to detect threats and intervene in time. One such solution is ExeonTrace, an advanced network monitoring and threat analysis platform. ExeonTrace offers a comprehensive set of features to help organizations protect themselves from malware threats.