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Malware Threats to Keep Your Data Safe in 2024

Malware Threats in 2024 Malware threats are more dangerous than ever in 2024. As an IT leader, understanding different malware types is crucial for security. […]

Malware Threats in 2024

Malware threats are more dangerous than ever in 2024. As an IT leader, understanding different malware types is crucial for security. This definitive guide covers the 12 most common malware threat types, real-world examples, and best practices to protect your business.

Malware is evolving rapidly, with new variants emerging daily. Sophisticated techniques like file-less malware and supply chain hijacking allow cybercriminals to evade traditional defenses. Staying on top of the latest malware trends is key for security teams.

By understanding the most common malware threat types and attacks security leaders face today, you can make strategic decisions on security priorities and investments. The right technologies, policies, and training focused on prevalent threats will harden your human and digital defenses.

Let’s discuss the 12 most widespread malware varieties of 2024 and recent real-world examples. Detailed descriptions and security best practices for each threat equip you to strengthen defenses with intelligence-driven precision.

Malware Threats to Keep Your Data Safe in 2024

Malware Threats to Keep Your Data Safe in 2024

#1 Ransomware

Ransomware is the most disruptive malware threat today. It encrypts data until a ransom is paid, but the decryption is not guaranteed.

  • WannaCry crippled 200,000+ systems worldwide in 2017.
  • In 2019, Florida municipal systems were halted by Ryuk ransomware.
  • Costs often exceed $1 million per incident.

Ransomware attacks are shattering records in frequency, sophistication, and cost. Attacks increased 148% from 2020 to 2021, with the average ransom payment soaring to over $800,000. This exponential growth shows no signs of slowing down.

Ransomware operators are now pursuing “big game hunting,” targeting large enterprises like JBS Foods with ransom demands in the tens of millions. Even when ransom is paid, recovery is complex, costly, and not assured. For example, despite paying an $11 million ransom, Colonial Pipeline’s operations took weeks to restore.

The extortion model is also shifting from “encrypt and extort” to “steal and extort.” Adversaries increasingly threaten to publish sensitive stolen data if ransom goes unpaid.

Proactive measures like air-gapped backups and user education are crucial defenses. AI-powered solutions like CrowdStrike Falcon Prevent ransomware via machine learning and behavioral analysis.

Best practices include:

  • Regular backups with air-gapped storage
  • Endpoint detection and response to block and contain
  • User security awareness training
  • Incident response planning and exercises
  • Cyber insurance evaluation

#2 Fileless Malware

Fileless malware uses legitimate tools like PowerShell and WMI to infect systems stealthily. Without installing files, it hides from traditional antivirus.

  • In 2020, 67% of cyberattacks leveraged file-less techniques.
  • Only advanced AI can spot in-memory threats by analyzing behavior.
  • The CrowdStrike Falcon platform combines next-gen AV, EDR, and threat intelligence to stop fileless attacks.

Fileless techniques allow adversaries to “live off the land,” executing purely in memory. Lacking files for antivirus to detect, fileless malware is invisible to signature-based defenses.

PowerShell is the most common fileless vector, invoked directly or via scripts. Attackers also weaponize Windows admin tools like PsExec and legitimate network protocols. Combined with credential theft and lateral movement, fileless attacks enable stealthy network compromise.

Legacy antivirus cannot detect in-memory threats. Only advanced behavioral analytics provided by solutions like CrowdStrike Falcon will uncover fileless malware by analyzing processes, memory, and network activity for anomalies.

Strategies for combating fileless malware include

  • Behavior-based endpoint detection and response
  • Restricting and monitoring PowerShell
  • Promptly patching exploitation vectors
  • Securing credentials and enforcing the least privilege
  • Network traffic analytics to detect anomalies

#3 Spyware

Spyware secretly grabs sensitive data like keystrokes, often via hotel and airport Wi-Fi.

  • For example, DarkHotel targeted executives for a decade before its discovery in 2014. It installed keyloggers to steal confidential data.
  • Strict browsing habits are key to avoiding spyware.

Spyware is on the rise, increasingly delivered via phishing websites and malicious ads. Once installed, it covertly captures sensitive information through tactics like screen recording and keylogging.

Cybercriminals use spyware like DarkHotel to steal intellectual property, financial data, and credentials. Spyware often lurks undetected for months or years, continuously siphoning confidential info.

Hotel and airport Wi-Fi are common infection vectors. Connecting to public networks provides an open door for attackers to deliver spyware via man-in-the-middle attacks.

Safe browsing habits are critical to avoid spyware, including using VPNs and not clicking unverified links on public networks. Antivirus, endpoint detection and response, and URL filtering provide additional protection against spyware payloads.

#4 Adware

Adware tracks users and serves disruptive ads.

  • Fireball infected 250+ million devices by hijacking browsers.
  • By compiling user data, adware builds detailed profiles without consent.
  • Safe browsing and malware threats prevention thwarts adware.

While adware may seem like a nuisance, it poses serious privacy and security risks. Sensitive tracking data is often sent to unknown third parties. Adware strain Fireball demonstrated the scale possible, infecting over 250 million Windows and Mac devices globally.

In addition to tracking browsing, adware can modify browser settings, serve intrusive pop-up ads, hijack search results, and redirect to affiliate offers. This disruptive behavior generates fraudulent ad revenue for cybercriminals.

Users typically fall victim to adware by installing freemium software bundles that covertly include adware. Safe browsing habits are key to avoiding infection. Antivirus and web filtering provide additional protection by blocking known adware domains and payloads.

#5 Trojans

Trojans disguise as legitimate software and deploy via phishing.

  • Banking Trojans like Emotet cost upwards of $1 million per attack.
  • AI-powered solutions identify evasive threats like Emotet.

Trojans are a preferred malware threat type for cybercriminals due to their versatility. Posing as legitimate files or applications, Trojans trick users into installing malicious payloads.

Banking Trojans are a dangerous subset designed to steal financial credentials and funds. Emotet, one of the most damaging banking Trojans, costs an average of $1.2 million per incident in damages.

Trojans are typically spread through social engineering like phishing emails with malicious attachments. Powerful AI and machine learning detect telltale signals of Trojan delivery and attack patterns. This allows advanced solutions to spot emerging Trojans that evade traditional signature-based defenses.

#6 Worms

Worms self-replicate across networks by exploiting vulnerabilities.

  • Stuxnet notoriously targeted Iranian nuclear facilities before spreading globally.
  • Patching systems prevent worm outbreaks.

Worms differentiate themselves by self-propagating between systems without human interaction. Automated scanning and exploitation allow extremely rapid spread.

The Stuxnet worm provided an infamous example, damaging uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran. It exploited multiple unpatched Windows flaws, copied itself via network shares, and spread globally, infecting over 200,000 systems.

Regular system patching prevents worms from exploiting known software vulnerabilities to spread. Network segmentation, traffic analysis, and endpoint security provide additional layers of protection against worm outbreaks.

#7 Rootkits

Rootkits allow remote control and hide other malware threats.

  • For instance, Zacinlo performs invisible click fraud.
  • Anomaly detection and behavior analytics uncover advanced rootkits.

Rootkits are stealthy malware that burrow deep into the operating system to maintain persistence. By modifying low-level functions, rootkits cloak themselves and other malware threats from detection and removal.

For example, the Zacinlo rootkit is installed alongside legitimate Windows drivers to hide its click fraud activities. Without advanced forensic analysis, Zacinlo stayed invisible while generating fraudulent ad revenue.

Rootkit detection requires going beyond traditional signature scanning to identify anomalies in system calls, memory, processor usage, and network traffic. AI-powered endpoint detection and response solutions perform this advanced behavioral analysis to uncover sophisticated rootkits.

#8 Keyloggers

Keyloggers steal sensitive data by recording keystrokes. Legitimate software is often hijacked.

  • For example, Olympic Vision targets executives via spear phishing for just $25 on the dark web.

Keylogger malware threat records all keystrokes, capturing passwords, financial details, communications, and other sensitive data. Most keyloggers transmit logs to attackers or exfiltrate via backdoor connections.

Legitimate remote administration software with keylogging features is frequently hijacked to deliver keylogger payloads. Cybercriminals also develop custom keyloggers tailored to evade security tools.

For instance, the Olympic Vision keylogger is sold for just $25 on dark web forums and used in targeted spear phishing campaigns against executives. Without behavioral analysis, basic keyloggers easily evade antivirus detection.

To protect against keyloggers, organizations should deploy endpoint detection and response, patch software vulnerabilities used in delivery, filter spear phishing emails, and prompt users to report suspicious activity.

#9 Bots

Bots automate tasks like credential stuffing.

  • Botnets weaponize compromised devices for DDoS and data theft.
  • Mirai infected 500,000+ IoT devices in 2016 by brute forcing Telnet passwords.

Malicious bots are automated programs that perform repetitive tasks under attacker control. Botnets coordinate thousands of compromised devices, pooling resources to launch devastating DDoS attacks or harvest data en masse.

The Mirai botnet exemplified the power of insecure IoT devices by building a massive botnet to take down internet infrastructure. By brute forcing weak credentials on routers, cameras, and digital video recorders, Mirai amassed an army of bots.

Botnets underscore the importance of cyber hygiene basics like patching, strong passwords, multifactor authentication, and the principle of least privilege. AI-powered network analytics can detect botnet command and control activity to prevent bot herding.

#10 Mobile Malware

Mobile malware is booming, growing by 50% in 2019.

  • Attackers trick users into installing malware threats posing as apps.
  • Triada infected millions by hijacking ad revenue.

Mobile devices have quickly become a prime target for cybercriminals. With billions of devices in circulation, mobile malware provides massively scalable monetization through ad fraud, subscription scams, and data harvesting.

Threat actors disguise mobile malware in trojanized apps distributed through third-party app stores. For example, the Triada Trojan hijacked device processes to serve invasive ads and generate fraudulent ad revenue. Triada persisted for years, infecting millions of devices while evading Google Play protections.

Organizations should install mobile threat defense on managed devices, vet internally developed apps, and train users to avoid sideloading risky apps from outside official app stores.

#11 Wipers

Wipers destroy systems and data.

  • WhisperGate crippled Ukrainian agencies in 2022 alongside bootloader malware.
  • Wipers aim to disrupt operations and complicate response.

Destructive wipers erase data and render systems inoperable. Most notably, WhisperGate was deployed alongside bootloader malware to target Ukrainian government agencies and banks in 2022. By overwriting the master boot record, WhisperGate combined permanent system destruction with data wiping.

Wipers are utilized as military or state-sponsored weapons with the goal of inflicting damage and chaos. In addition to destruction, wipers force organizations into costly recovery processes and distract incident responders.

Protection requires a resilient backup strategy combined with prompt patch management. Behavioral analysis technologies can potentially detect wiper code before execution. However, wipers demonstrate the importance of response planning for worst-case scenarios.


The malware threats landscape is constantly evolving. Implement layered defenses across endpoints, networks, clouds, and users to protect against new threats. With AI-powered solutions like CrowdStrike Falcon, organizations can confidently secure against modern attacks.

This covers the most dangerous malware types in 2024. Share your insights or questions about securing critical systems against malware threats in the comments below!


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