What is malware and how to protect your business?

No sector of the Australian economy is immune from the impacts of cybercrime and other malicious cyber activity. According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), ransomware, a form of malware, poses as one of the most significant threats to Australian businesses.

In the 2020-21 financial year, the ACSC recorded a 15 per cent increase in ransomware cybercrime reports. Ransom demands by cybercriminals ranged from thousands to millions of dollars.

So, what is malware, and how can you protect your business from malware attacks?

Malware is short for malicious software. It is any type of software designed to gain access or damage a computer system without their victim’s knowledge.

The most common types of malware include:

  1. Ransomware
  2. Viruses
  3. Worms
  4. Trojans
  5. Bots or botnets, and more.

While the end goal of a malware attack is often the same, the delivery methods can differ. Let’s take a look into some of the main types of malware attacks.


1. Ransomware

Ransomware, as the name indicates, is a type of malware that comes with a ransom. Cybercriminals use ransomware to deny you access to your files or devices. They then demand you pay them to get back your access.

Ransomware attacks cause downtime, data loss and of course, financial loss.

How does ransomware happen? Often, it’s the result of victims mistakenly downloading this malware type through email attachments or links from unknown sources. Once installed, the malware gives access to hackers to begin encrypting the data and locking out owners out of their devices until a ransom is paid.

For more information on how ransomware works, click below:

Ransomware | How does ransomware work? from ACSC on Vimeo.

Ransomware examples:

WannaCry and NotPetya infected more than 200,000 machines in over 100 countries within 24 hours. Victims of WannaCry were asked to pay ransom in Bitcoin to retrieve their data.

More recently, Kronos, one of Australia’s most popular time and attendance software providers was impacted by a ransomware attack late last year. As a result, wage payments for big healthcare providers, retailers and food manufacturers were thrown into chaos forcing many employees to record their hours manually.

2. Viruses

A computer virus is a type of malicious code or program designed to spread from device to device. The virus is attached to a file and is executed once the file is launched. The virus has the potential to cause unexpected or damaging effects by corrupting or destroying data.

3. Worms

A worm is very similar to a virus in that it replicates itself within a system but unlike a virus, it doesn’t spread to other programs. Worms can be transmitted via software vulnerabilities, and they can also arrive as attachments in emails

Worm malware can delete or modify files, steal data, install backdoors for hackers, launch ransomware attacks and more.

4. Trojans

Trojans are a type of malware disguised as bona fide software, applications, or files to deceive users into downloading it. Once installed, the Trojan works quietly in the background to steal sensitive data, install a backdoor, or take other harmful actions on your data or network.

Unlike viruses, trojans are not host-dependent and they do not self-replicate like viruses. Since trojans rely on social engineering to get users to spread and download, they can be more difficult to combat.

5. Botnets

A bot is a software program that performs an automated task without requiring any interaction. A computer with a bot infection can spread the bot to other devices, creating a botnet. Botnets are networks of these infected devices that work together under the control of an attacker.

Botnets can be used to conduct phishing campaigns, send out spam, or launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.


More businesses these days are adopting robust backup and disaster recovery plans to remain resilient in the face of planned or unplanned downtime.

Cybersecurity awareness training and phishing simulations for employees are also critical in improving your security posture. Educating your staff on how to recognise phishing scams and malicious attacks is key to ensuring your company data remains safe.

In addition to this, businesses should make sure every device is updated with the latest patches. Businesses should also ensure multi-factor authentication is used to secure Internet access, infrastructure, and cloud-based platforms.

Ideally, with the right backup, training, and security layers working together, businesses can be confident in knowing that their data and systems remain safe, no matter what threatens.


If you have concerns about your organisation’s security posture, please get in touch with one of our cybersecurity experts on 1300 HUON IT (4866 48) or email info@huonit.com.au.

Security & Networking