Threatware - What is it and how does it work?

Threatware is a relatively new keyword that is being thrown around in the cybersecurity space. Whilst this is a new phrase, you’ve likely heard of “malware”, which is comparable, almost identical. In today’s Hakubi article, we look at what threatware is, and how you can prevent it from affecting you and your business.

What is Threatware?

By definition, threatware is a term used to refer to computer programs or exploits that are exposed and used to gain access or cause harm to devices, systems, or files. Threatware is technically a synonym for malware. 

What are some examples of Threatware?

As we already know, malware is comparable to threatware, and therefore follows the same trends. Below are just some of the most common types of threatware and malware that you may see around.

Fileless Malware: Hidden in the Memory

Fileless malware is malicious code that sits within a system’s memory and doesn’t actually operate as a physical file. Although it can affect a system in different ways, it runs in your computer’s memory, and can often compromise other programs to achieve persistence on your system.

This means that if your device falls victim to a fileless malware attack, you may not know about it until it’s too late, where even a reboot or installing Anti-Virus won’t help you.

Viruses: Spreading without a Pandemic

Viruses are some of the oldest forms of malware/threatware, which is typically a mix of malicious software that can spread itself from one file/system to another undetected. It will often cause harm to a system, via data and software exploits.

Bots: I, ROBOT – but real.

Bots, whilst itself is not a threat, multiple bots can be used for another attack such as a DDoS attack. These are quite common, and you may not even notice it happening if your computer is affected.

Ransomware: Pay or Forfeit your Data

Ransomware is a type of threat that allows a cybercriminal to typically encrypt, and destroy data whilst offering a ransom to decrypt, and restore data. Ransomware has been a major issue for large organizations all over the world. The most famous is the WannaCry ransomware

Spyware: Your Data is our Data

As the name suggests, Spyware is commonly a small piece of software that runs to gain further intelligence about a victim or their system. Spyware will often spy on you, before relaying it back to the adversary or attacker.

Adware: Spammed with Adverts

Adware is a simple and usually non-harmful type of threatware which allows an attacker to promote advertisements bypassing all normal marketing laws and ‘personal space’. This is done, most commonly, via. Pop-ups and browser modifications. Adware can also turn into ransomware, bots, or viruses – so should not be ignored if found. 

Trojans: Misleading and Dangerous

Trojans are a common type of malware/threatware that disguises itself as a legitimate, often real-looking piece of software. When a  user installs, what they believe to be an application they want, the trojan may operate as expected however in most cases – will download further files and infect a system.  

What you can do to protect against Threatware

Threatware is quite common and will affect most people in their lifetimes, especially when technology is becoming more and more involved in everyday activities. But how do you protect yourself? Here are some top tips on how you can avoid malware or threatware from infecting your system.

  1. Keep your Computer Updated

One of the best things you can do to avoid threatware is to stay ahead of exploits and other vulnerabilities. To do this, simply updating your computer such as MacOS, or Windows 10/11 will help keep you safe when using your PC.

Whilst updating your PC’s Operating System will help, updating your software/applications will also help 10-fold. We highlight recommend doing this as soon as possible whenever you get prompted for updates!

  1. Use Caution when Working with Links/Emails

When using emails, or being sent/seeing links – be careful! Emails account for over 70% of attacks on personal and business computers. Whilst this is a lot – most of it is from human error. Just thinking twice about clicking links, and checking if an email is a phishing email will help you avoid downloading or interacting with malware. 

  1. Use Anti-Virus Software

This might be a no-brainer, but using anti-virus software, even reputable-brand free ones will save you in the long run. Whilst investing in a good piece of AV will be best – free versions will do just as well. Look for Windows Defender (if you’re on Windows), or MalwareBytes if you’re on anything else (including Windows). Both are equally as good! 

MalwareBytes Logo for Threatware Detection
  1. Don’t Download Anything You’re Unsure Of

Another no-brainer, but don’t download anything you’re not 100% sure of. Make sure you read what is being sent, expect what is to be downloaded, and make sure you’re using a reputable site/service to download from. Avoid anything that you’re not 100% confident is real and safe.

  1. Don’t Use ‘Dodgy’ Sites

When we say dodgy sites – we mean all of them. Even sites you’ve been using for years which we won’t name will likely have some links away to another site that could potentially infect your system. By avoiding using these kinds of sites, you will save yourself any problems should you download anything malicious!

In Conclusion

Overall, whilst threatware is essentially malware – we’re seeing this term being used much more frequently by entry-level analysts and cybersecurity professionals. With that being said, we hope that this guide has been useful in differentiating between the two, but let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Elena Hartley
Elena H

Elena is a recent university graduate with a degree in Cybersecurity, where she cultivated a deep passion for intelligence and reporting. During her studies, Elena distinguished herself through her dedication to learning about the complexities of cyber threats and their implications on national and international security. She has developed strong analytical skills, which she applies to her current focus on intelligence reporting and data analysis.

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