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From toxic code snippets to self-replicating apps, malware exists in many forms. But, it’s the attacker’s goal that distinguishes one type from another. From cyberwarfare and international espionage to extortion, ransomware, and data theft, hackers use malware for everything from cracking weak passwords to disrupting business operations.

Cybercriminals deliver malware in various ways, but the most common are email attachments and links, instant messages, social media, file-sharing programs, USB sticks, and unsecure networks. They also use software downloads and installations, bundled software, and remote access tools to deliver malware to devices.

Once a device is infected with malware, it can change the web browsing experience, alter control of downloads and installations, display misleading information, or make unauthorized changes to device settings. Some types of malware can even be used to spy on the infected device or send personal information back to the attacker.

Viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, and rootkits are just some of the more prevalent malware threats. These malicious applications can steal data, create fake ads on websites, crack weak passwords, and more.

What’s more, attackers continue to evolve the way they deliver malware. They develop new evasion and obfuscation techniques that allow them to avoid detection by signature-based security products. They can also create polymorphic viruses that continuously change their underlying code to prevent discovery and sandboxing solutions. Additionally, they’re developing zero-day exploits for which there are no known fixes or defenses.