So who likes worms, Nah we don’t like ’em here, in both – their biological as well as the virtual form. Alike the biological worm, some have benefits in growing vegetation by airing soil and while fishing – the real one, some variants are deadly and do direct opposite for what we use them for. Just like the name they got from its biological name-a-like, computer worms are nasty little piece of code which can do more harm than good if created with bad intentions.
A computer worm is a form of malware or otherwise a piece of malicious software which can operate as a self-contained application and can move and copy itself from one device to another. Computer worms are similar in some ways to viruses, they replicate functional copies of themselves and have potential to cause similar damages. Usually worms are standalone software and they do not require a host program or human intervention once launched to propagate. To spread worms, bad actors either exploit a vulnerability on the target system or use some kind of social engineering to trick users into executing them. A computer worm is malware that reproduces itself and spreads over connected networks. They have the capability to run as stand-alone programs that replicate themselves and run in the background without getting noticed.
A worm hybrid is a piece of malware that spreads like a worm, but it also modifies program code like a virus or else carries some sort of malicious payload, such as a virus, ransomware or some other type of malware to inflict damage. Although some worms are designed to do nothing more than propagate themselves to new victim systems, most worms are associated with viruses, rootkits or other malicious software.
Computer worms make use of some of the un-sighted and most dangerous vulnerabilities in a victim’s computer. Worms often use parts of an operating system that are automated and invisible to the user, which can make them both very difficult to detect and insanely dangerous. They generally target per-existing vulnerabilities in the operating system of the computers they attempt to infect. Many of the most widespread and destructive forms of malware have been worms. Sometimes the worm delivery can have objective for larger mission beyond the reproduction and propogation of the worm itself.
How WORMS Spread
In order to spread, computer worms use existing vulnerabilities in networks. A worm enters a computer through a vulnerability in the system and takes advantage of file-transport or information-transport features on the system, allowing it to travel without help. Usually, a worm looks for a back door to penetrate the network unnoticed. More advanced worms use encryption, wipers, and ransomware technologies as leverage to harm their targets. In more targeted attempts to get computer worms into circulation for the first time, hackers often send phishing e-mails or instant messages with malicious attachments. Cyber criminals try to camouflage the worm so that the recipient is willing to run the program. For this purpose, for example, double file extensions are used and / or a data name that looks harmless or urgent, such as “tax benefits” “free-vacations” “free-money” or anything that’s eye catchy. When the user opens the attachment or link, they will immediately download the malware (computer worm) into the system or be directed to a dangerous website. In this way, the worm finds its way into the user’s system without them noticing.Once opened, these files could provide a link to a malicious website or automatically download the computer worm. Once installed on a computer, it takes stock of all the other computers its victim had interacted with in the past and figures out how to connect. In order to propagate itself further, it will then follow known holes in networking and file transfer protocols. All worms seek out new victims in the vicinity on its own. It spread from computer to computer within networks. The worm always seeks a way to replicate and penetrate other systems. One way of doing this, for example, is for the worm to send an email to all contacts on the infected computer, which contains replicas of the worm. Computers connected to a network are susceptible to computer worms.
The computer worm does not usually infect computer files, but rather infects another computer on the network. This is done by the worm replicating itself. The worm passes this ability on to its replica, which allows it to infect other systems in the same way. Many worms now have what is known as a payload. Payload is translated as the “payload” and in this case an attachment that the worm brings with it. The worm can, for example, carry ransomware , viruses or other malware, which then cause damage to the infected systems. These can then, for example, delete files on the PC or encrypt files in the event of a blackmail attack. A computer worm can also install a back door that can later be exploited by other malware programs. This vulnerability gives the worm’s author control over the infected computer.
Lately we have seen a trend in which bad actors scam people on the internet alerting that a virus/malware has infected users system and asks to download and install certain software which would remove the infection for free. Unaware of the fact the paranoid user becomes a victim of such frauds. If you need a security software always download it from original source than from middle-man.
What WORM’s Do
Once it gets rooted, the worm silently goes to work and infects the machine without the user’s knowledge. Worms can modify and delete files, and they can even inject additional malicious software onto a computer. Sometimes a computer worm’s objective is only to make copies of itself to a level where in depleting system resources, such as hard drive space or bandwidth, by overloading a shared network. In addition to wreaking havoc on a computer’s resources, worms can also steal data, install a backdoor, and allow a hacker to gain control over a computer and alter its system settings.
In the early days of computing a worm may not do any damage at all. Worms were sometimes designed as larks or for proofs of concept to exploit security holes. It did nothing more to targeted computers than reproduce themselves in the background. Many times, the only way to know something has gone wrong was when the worm made too many copies of itself on a single system and slowed down its capability. But as OS security improved over time and writing a code for worm that could crack it got harder and took more and more resources, it reached a dead end. Today, worms almost inevitably include payloads — malicious code in more targeted attacks. There are many types of computer worms that do all sorts of different kinds of damage to their victims. Some turn computers into “zombies” or “bots” that launch DDoS attacks. Since the worm or its programmer can use the computing power of the infected system, they are often integrated into a botnet. These are then used by cyber criminals, for example for DDoS attacks or cypto-mining .
Types of WORMS
There are several types of malicious computer WORMS in the wild. Some are harmful and others not We have listed most of the types of WORMS based on their characteristics:
Email worms are usually spread as malicious executable files attached to what appear to be ordinary email messages from a friend or a promotional message. Next time you see someone offering something for free or discounted a lot than usual, think twice before jumping onto it. The computer worms are mostly spread via email attachments. It usually has double file extensions something like .mp4.exe or .avi.exe or .jpg.exe. This is a tactic used by the bad actor to deceive the victim and convince them to think that those are media files and not malicious computer programs.
Instant Messaging WORMS
They are similar to email worms, the only difference being in the way they distributed. Instant messaging, or IM worms are sent or propagated through instant messaging services and exploit access to contact lists on the victim computers. The worms are disguised as attachments or clickable links to a website, which delivers the payload. Often, short messages like “Discounted” or “Don’t miss the chance!!” “Only for you!” “You missed..last chance!” are accompanied to trick the victim into thinking that either they are the lucky one for exclusive offer released just for a few or a friend sent something interesting to watch. When you see that RUN..RUN FAR AWAY. I mean, don’t run literally. But do not click on ‘em either and destroy the chain.
These are completely independent programs. You use an infected machine to search the internet for other vulnerable machines. If a vulnerable computer is found, the worm infects it.
File Sharing WORMS
Despite the illegal nature, file sharing and peer-to-peer (p2p) file transfers is used by millions of people across the world. Doing so, they unknowingly expose their devices to the threat of file-sharing worms. Like email and instant messaging worms, these programs are often disguised as double-ended file extension.
A bot worm may be used to infect computers and turn them into zombies or bots, with the intent of using them in coordinated attacks. These are used for crypto-mining or sophisticated and co-ordinated DDoS attack.
An ethical worm is a computer worm designed to propagate across networks with the sole and good purpose of delivering patches for known security vulnerabilities. While ethical worms have been described and discussed in academics, actual examples in the wild have not been found, until recently – the solar attack in Dec 2020. The believe is most likely there because the potential for unexpected harm done to systems that react unexpectedly to such software outweighs the potential for removing vulnerabilities which in a way is very true until now. In any case, unleashing any piece of software that makes changes to a system without the permission of the system owner opens the publisher to various criminal and civil charges.
Prevention and Removing WORMS
Just like the old wise guys said, prevention is better than cure. But if you are the once who deep dive into wild and take the unknown path due to pure idiocy or to explore, following the below steps can protect you to a certain limit.
Lets understand, at the first place, the first step to remove a computer worm is to detect the presence of the worm, which can be difficult. The best way to detect a computer worm is to be aware of and recognize the symptoms of a computer worm infection. Some symptoms that may indicate the presence of a worm include: computer performance issues, including degraded system performance, system freezing or crashing unexpectedly. Unusual system behavior, including programs that execute or terminates without user interaction, unusual sounds, images or messages, the sudden appearance of unfamiliar files or icons, or the unexpected disappearance of files or icons, warning messages from the operating system or antivirus software and email messages sent to contacts without user action should raise alarms for of computer worm activities.
To help protect your computer from worms and other online threats, always ensure the below:
- Since software vulnerabilities are major infection vectors for computer worms, be sure your computer’s operating system and applications are up to date with the latest versions. Install these updates as soon as they are available and recommended by the OEM because updates most of the times include patches for security flaws. Keeping up to date with operating systems and all other software patches and updates will help reduce the risk due to newly discovered vulnerabilities.
- Phishing is another popular way for hackers to spread worms and most preferable for targeted attacks. Always be extra cautious when opening unsolicited emails, IM’s, files especially those from unknown senders that contain attachments or dubious links.
- Invest in a strong internet security software solution that can help block these threats. A good product should have anti-phishing technology as well as defences against worms, viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other online threats.
- Users should practice good cybersecurity hygiene to protect themselves against being infected with computer worms. Measures that will help prevent the threat of computer worm infections include:
- Using firewalls will help reduce access to systems by malicious software.
- Using antivirus softwarewill help prevent malicious software from running.
- Being careful not to click on attachments or links in email or other messaging applications that may expose systems to malicious software.
- Encrypt data to protect sensitive information stored on computers, servers and mobile devices.
Removing a computer worm can be difficult. In extreme cases, the system may need to be formatted, and all the software reinstalled. Use a known safe computer to download any required updates or programs to an external storage device and then install them on the affected machine. If it is possible to identify the computer worm infecting the system, there may be specific instructions or tools available to remove the infection. The system should be disconnected from the internet or any network, wired or wireless, before attempting to remove the computer worm; removable storage devices should also be removed and scanned separately for infections. Once the system is disconnected from the network, do the following:
- Update all antivirus signatures
- Scan the computer with the up-to-date antivirus software
- Use the antivirus software to remove any malware, including worms, that it finds and to clean infected files
- Confirm that the operating system and all applications are up to date and patched
Hope this was informative. So be safe online, Only a little effort and vigilance on your part can save you from a lot of unwanted nuisance and cost. Always be protected. We have more interesting topic, in our other posts. Happy Learning.