Dennis Underwood
Published on
December 21, 2022

Malware vs. Ransomware: A Complete Guide For Business Owners

Getting malware vs. ransomware confused? This guide will help you understand the difference between the two.

Malware and ransomware are two dangerous types of cyber attack tools that can cause serious damage to computer systems. 

Malware is a broad term that encompasses any malicious software created to negatively influence computers, networks, and data. It is designed to disrupt the normal functioning of computer systems in favor of an attacker’s criminal goals. 

Ransomware is a specific type of malware typically used to encrypt data and demand payment to regain access. It is an especially dangerous form of malware as it can quickly spread its encryption across a network, locking down important data and systems until the ransom is paid.  Other types of malware may specialize in identity theft, data theft, and even tapping into phones and webcams.

Both malware and ransomware attacks can have serious consequences, so it is important to stay vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect your computer systems and data.

Related: Why Aren’t Security Tools Stopping Ransomware

What Is Malware?

Malware, short for malicious software, is any computer software or program specifically designed to damage or disrupt a computer or network. It can come in many forms, such as computer viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, adware, and spyware. 

Malware is typically installed without the user's knowledge and can be used to gain access to a computer or network, steal sensitive data, or cause other types of damage. Malware can spread through malicious links, downloads, and attachments and can often be difficult to detect and remove. 

It is important to be proactive in preventing malware by using antivirus and anti-malware software and being aware of suspicious links and websites. Additionally, users should do their part since antivirus normally only discovers new malware variants after enough victims submit the new malware to the antivirus provider.  Users should be careful when downloading files and be sure to only download files from trusted sources. Taking these precautionary steps can help protect against malicious software and keep your data safe.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software used by cybercriminals to gain access to a user's computer or network. After the ransomware gains access, it will begin to encrypt the user's data and files.  It usually starts with servers a user has access to, then encrypts their desktop last. The attacker then demands a ransom, usually in the form of cryptocurrency or money, to release the data. Ransomware can also be used to lock users out of their systems or networks. Once the ransom is paid, the attacker typically provides the user with a key to unlock their data or system.

Ransomware is a growing problem as cybercriminals become increasingly sophisticated in their techniques. It is important to be aware of the types of ransomware, how it works, and the steps you can take to protect yourself. Backups used to be used by victims to try to restore encrypted data. Backups are normally deleted or corrupted by attackers to ensure the victim has to pay the ransom. It is important to have specialized extortion prevention software such as Cybercrucible to prevent the criminal’s activities. Finally, it is important to keep your system and software updated to minimize the number of security vulnerabilities available to the criminal to use to spread ransomware across your network.

Read: Backups Lack Efficacy in the Face of Advanced Ransomware

Differences Between Malware vs. Ransomware

Woman in Black and Blue Gingham Button-up Long-sleeved Top

Malware refers to all malicious software and ransomware is a category of malware. Cyber attackers will use ransomware as a specialized tool to encrypt your data after breaking into your computer systems and stealing your data.

Method of Delivery

Malware can come from suspicious links, USB drives, app installations on your devices, or even emails. Ransomware tends to be a little more directed, with most security breaches coming from malicious attachments downloaded from phishing emails.

Learn: Why Ransomware Defense Efficiency is So Important

Ease of Removal

The removal of malware is considered to have moderate difficulty in removal. Ransomware programs can be incredibly difficult to find and remove before they have had a chance to explore. At this stage, the ransomware must be stopped immediately, or it will be too late. Since most files are conducted using in-memory techniques, they are able to take over programs while remaining undetected.

Different Varieties

Malware can come in many different forms, such as bugs, scareware, crypto-jacking, spyware, rootkits, and ransomware, just to name a few. Ransomware is generally deployed long after an attacker has gained a strong foothold in a victim's network. An attack normally begins with email phishing, identity theft, taking advantage of software vulnerabilities, or hijacking remote desktop protocol.

Damage Caused

The damage caused by malware can range from mild to extensive. It can cause reduced system performance, but it usually isn’t catastrophic to a business. Historically, attacks like data theft attacks did not directly impact business operations, even if they harmed customer and employee privacy. Ransomware is highly visible to the business; the impact is often much worse and often causes businesses to shut down. Extortionists have learned not completely to destroy a business with ransomware, and instead to do just enough harm to get a quick ransom payment before returning a year or two later to do it all again.

Want to be sure that you are protected from ransomware attacks? Contact us here to schedule a meeting!

How to Protect Against Malware

Man Using Silver Laptop Beside Another Man

To protect against malware, it is important to practice good online safety practices. Start by installing antivirus software and keeping it up to date. This will help to detect and block malicious software before it can infect your computer.  There is usually a period of weeks or months before the antivirus will start detecting new malware, so it is very important to be vigilant at all times. Be cautious when browsing the web and downloading files. Avoid clicking on suspicious links, and only download software from trusted sources. Furthermore, regularly back up your data and set up firewalls and other security measures to protect your network. Finally, be sure to regularly update your operating system and applications to ensure that the latest security patches are installed. This is all designed to minimize the available opportunities for criminals to steal your data and identity before extorting you with ransomware.

How to Protect Against Ransomware

Ransomware is normally the last step in an attack after identity and data theft have been accomplished by an attacker. Once an extortionist starts ransomware, it is almost impossible to stop or remove. Unfortunately, anti-malware tools can prove to be ineffective against ransomware attacks. The best defense against a ransomware attack is using behavior-based systems that are designed to detect identity and data theft and extortion malicious behaviors, like Cybercrucible

Learn: Ransomware & File Corruption

Cybercrucible is highly accurate because instead of simply just looking for possible attacker behaviors, it looks at identity access and data access as their triggers to conduct behavioral analysis. As soon as any malware, including ransomware, tries to steal data, steal identity information, or encrypt data, Cybercrucible is there within 200ms.  That is fast enough that no information is stolen or encrypted.

Are you ready to give Cybercrucible a try? Click here to try it for free!

The Importance of Protecting Against Malware vs. Ransomware

Protecting against malware and ransomware is vitally important to the security of any computer system, as these malicious programs can cause irreparable damage to a computer and its data. Malware can be used to steal private data, spread viruses, and generally disrupt computer operations. Ransomware is a form of malware that specifically targets computer systems and encrypts data until a ransom is paid to the hacker.

Without proper protection, a computer can be vulnerable to malware and ransomware attacks, which can be devastating for the user. The user can lose access to their data and be subject to financial losses due to ransom payments. Additionally, malware and ransomware can spread quickly to other computers, leading to widespread attacks.

Make sure you're protected from these threats through Cybercrucible. Cyber attacks are evolving every day; make sure your system security does the same.

About the author
Dennis Underwood

Dennis Underwood is a veteran, cybersecurity leader, inventor, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. He is an expert at cryptography, intrusion discovery and analysis, having discovered multiple previously unreported intrusions to clients throughout his career. Currently, he is leading a team of like-minded experts delivering next generation intrusion discovery and ransomware response automation tools to consumers.

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