What Are Types Of Malwares Attacks? | Top 19

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Malwares are one of the most used tools by hacker to take controle over a mass number of machines in the word. They are quick and efficient in building bot networks in matter of hours or even minutes. Each type of malware has its own capabilities and is designed for specific stage of an attack. Therefore, what are the types of malwares attacks?

The various types of malware attacks stem from distinctions in their objectives and the techniques employed to achieve, sustain, or escalate privileges on the targeted machine. Here is a list of 19 types of malware attacks:

  1. Viruses
  2. Worms
  3. Trojans (Trojan Horses)
  4. Spyware
  5. Adware
  6. Ransomware
  7. Botnets
  8. Rootkits
  9. Keyloggers
  10. Logic Bombs
  11. Fileless Malware
  12. Mobile Malware
  13. Macro Viruses
  14. Bootkits
  15. Polymorphic Malware
  16. Multipartite Viruses
  17. DroppersScareware
  18. Cryptojacking
  19. Banking Trojans

If you want to learn more about the different types of malware attacks and what are the main differences between them. Then just keep reading.


A virus, within the context of cybersecurity, is a form of malicious software that exhibits self-replicating behavior by attaching itself to legitimate files. This parasitic characteristic allows the virus to spread across systems or networks, initiating its harmful activities. The primary objective of a virus is to proliferate and infect as many files as possible, often compromising system integrity and functionality.

Unlike some other types of malware, viruses necessitate the presence of a host file to propagate, distinguishing them from standalone entities like worms. Viruses can share similarities with trojans in that both rely on user actions for activation, but viruses go a step further by embedding themselves within executable files.

One notable feature of viruses is their potential for significant damage as they can corrupt or delete files, degrade system performance, and facilitate unauthorized access to compromised systems. Additionally, viruses often employ diverse infection techniques, including email attachments, infected software downloads, or compromised websites.

The constant evolution of viruses, their ability to adapt to new security measures, and their capacity to exploit vulnerabilities make them a persistent and formidable threat within the expansive landscape of cybersecurity. Understanding the characteristics and capabilities of viruses is crucial for developing effective countermeasures to protect systems and data from their insidious activities.


Worms represent a distinct class of malware characterized by their ability to independently replicate and spread across networks without requiring a host file for propagation. Unlike viruses that attach themselves to executable files, worms are standalone entities, making them self-contained and capable of initiating their malicious activities autonomously. Once infiltrated into a system, worms exploit vulnerabilities to replicate and propagate to other connected devices, often causing widespread and rapid infections. A notable real-life example is the Conficker worm, which targeted Microsoft Windows systems, demonstrating the ability to spread rapidly through network shares and removable storage devices.

The primary objective of worms is to proliferate across networks, enabling them to infect numerous systems and potentially cause extensive damage. This differentiates them from viruses, which rely on host files. Worms can impact network performance, consume bandwidth, and facilitate the distribution of additional malware. While worms share the self-replicating characteristic with viruses, they distinguish themselves by their independence and capacity for rapid, network-wide dissemination.

Similar to other malware types, worms often employ a variety of infection vectors, including exploiting software vulnerabilities and leveraging social engineering tactics. The Blaster Worm, for instance, exploited a Windows operating system vulnerability, highlighting the importance of timely software updates and patch management to mitigate the risks posed by these autonomous and swiftly spreading cyber threats.

Trojans (Trojan Horses)

A trojan, derived from the mythical wooden horse in Greek mythology, represents a class of malware that disguises itself as legitimate software to deceive users while carrying malicious intent. Unlike self-replicating viruses and standalone worms, trojans rely on user interaction for activation.

Once unwittingly executed, trojans unleash their harmful payload, which may include unauthorized access, data theft, or system disruption. Notable examples include the Zeus (Zbot) trojan, infamous for its focus on stealing financial information, and the Emotet trojan, which evolved into a versatile threat delivery mechanism.

Trojans share commonalities with other malware types, such as the capacity to compromise system integrity, but their deceptive nature distinguishes them. Unlike viruses that attach themselves to files or worms that independently propagate, trojans camouflage themselves within seemingly benign applications.

This reliance on deception aligns trojans with certain characteristics of spyware, emphasizing information theft. Trojans, however, exhibit broader versatility, being adapted for various malicious purposes.


Spyware constitutes a specialized category of malware designed with the clandestine intent of covertly monitoring and gathering user information without their knowledge or consent. Unlike viruses or worms, spyware operates surreptitiously, typically infiltrating systems through deceptive means, such as bundled with seemingly benign software or disguised as legitimate applications. Once embedded, spyware silently observes user activities, capturing sensitive information such as keystrokes, login credentials, and browsing habits. An illustrative real-life example is the notorious FinFisher spyware, known for its use in targeted surveillance.

Spyware shares a common thread with trojans, especially in their potential for unauthorized data access, but spyware’s distinct focus is on discreetly harvesting information rather than causing overt harm. While trojans may exhibit spying capabilities, spyware is tailored specifically for covert observation. This aligns spyware with the objectives of keyloggers but extends its functionality to comprehensive surveillance.

Detection and prevention strategies involve robust antivirus tools and anti-spyware programs, emphasizing the importance of user vigilance and cautious online behavior. Spyware’s insidious nature necessitates ongoing efforts to fortify cybersecurity defenses, offering insights into the evolving tactics of digital adversaries and reinforcing the imperative of privacy protection in the dynamic landscape of cyber threats.


Adware, a subset of potentially unwanted software, focuses on delivering unwanted advertisements to users’ systems. Unlike more malicious forms of malware, adware’s primary function is to generate revenue through intrusive advertising methods. It often enters systems bundled with free software, exploiting the user’s desire for cost-free applications. Once installed, adware inundates users with pop-up ads, banners, or redirects to specific websites. A real-life example is the Superfish adware, pre-installed on some Lenovo laptops, which injected visual ads into users’ browsing experiences.

While adware may not cause direct harm to systems, it can significantly disrupt user experiences and compromise privacy. Adware shares similarities with spyware in terms of collecting user data for targeted advertising but differs in its relatively less malicious intent. Unlike trojans or worms, adware does not seek to compromise system functionality or propagate itself extensively.

Preventing and removing adware involves the use of anti-adware tools and maintaining cautious software installation practices.


Ransomware stands as one of the most dangerous type of malware distinguished by its insidious capability to encrypt a user’s files or even entire systems, rendering them inaccessible until a ransom is paid to the attacker. Unlike viruses or trojans that may compromise system integrity or steal data, ransomware directly impacts data availability by employing strong encryption algorithms. Notable examples include the WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks, both leveraging EternalBlue exploit to propagate across networks and causing widespread disruption.

The primary objective of ransomware is financial gain, as attackers demand payment, often in cryptocurrency, for the decryption key. This sets ransomware apart from other malware types that may focus on espionage or system disruption. While ransomware shares similarities with other malware in terms of infiltrating systems through phishing emails or compromised websites, its distinct focus on encryption and ransom demands defines its malicious intent.

Prevention and mitigation strategies involve robust backup practices, user education on phishing awareness, and the use of antivirus and anti-ransomware solutions. Understanding the characteristics of ransomware is crucial for developing effective cybersecurity measures to thwart its impact and to foster resilience against evolving threats in the dynamic landscape of digital security.


A botnet, derived from the amalgamation of “robot” and “network,” represents a network of compromised computers, known as bots or zombies, centrally controlled by a command-and-control (C&C) server. Unlike standalone malware, a botnet’s strength lies in its collective power, allowing coordinated actions across a multitude of infected devices. Botnets can be employed for various malicious purposes, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, spam email distribution, or even cryptocurrency mining. The Mirai botnet is a notable example, leveraging compromised Internet of Things (IoT) devices to conduct massive DDoS attacks.

Botnets share some characteristics with worms in their capacity for widespread propagation, but the key distinction is their centralized control structure. Unlike trojans or ransomware that may focus on specific objectives, botnets operate as a collective force, often adapting their tactics to evade detection. They also exhibit similarities with other malware types in terms of exploiting vulnerabilities for initial infiltration, emphasizing the importance of timely software updates and patch management for mitigation.

Preventing and dismantling botnets involves cybersecurity measures such as intrusion detection systems, firewalls, Security Operation Center, and collaboration between security researchers and law enforcement. Understanding the intricacies of botnets is crucial for fortifying defenses against their pervasive and dynamic nature, contributing to the ongoing battle against cyber threats in the evolving landscape of digital security.


A rootkit constitutes a sophisticated type of malware designed to clandestinely embed itself within a system, typically at the kernel level, to attain elevated privileges and evade detection. Unlike viruses or trojans that may compromise user data or system functionality, rootkits focus on stealth and persistence. They are adept at manipulating core system processes, often making them difficult to detect even by advanced antivirus solutions. Real-life examples include the TDL (Alureon) rootkit, known for infecting the Master Boot Record (MBR) and achieving boot-level persistence.

Rootkits share similarities with other malware types in their initial infiltration methods, often exploiting vulnerabilities or user actions, such as downloading malicious content. However, their distinctive feature lies in their ability to establish a covert, persistent presence within the system. This sets them apart from adware, spyware, or trojans that may exhibit more overt or immediate impacts.

The capabilities of rootkits extend beyond initial compromise; they can facilitate discreet activities such as keylogging, privilege escalation, or establishing hidden backdoors. Detection and removal of rootkits pose significant challenges, often requiring specialized anti-rootkit tools and, in some cases, a comprehensive system reinstallation.


Keyloggers, short for keystroke loggers, represent a category of malware designed to surreptitiously record and monitor the keystrokes made by a user on their computer or mobile device. Unlike more overt malware like viruses or ransomware, keyloggers operate discreetly, capturing sensitive information such as passwords, usernames, and credit card details. Their capabilities extend to logging any text entered via a keyboard, rendering them potent tools for unauthorized access or identity theft. Real-life instances include the Zeus (Zbot) trojan, which incorporated keylogging capabilities to target financial information, and the DarkTequila malware, a sophisticated keylogger known for targeting financial institutions in Latin America.

Keyloggers share commonalities with spyware in their focus on information gathering, but keyloggers specifically hone in on capturing keyboard inputs. This distinguishes them from trojans or worms that may have broader malicious objectives. Keyloggers often infiltrate systems through phishing emails, malicious attachments, or compromised websites, emphasizing the importance of user education and cautious online behavior.

Preventing and mitigating keylogger threats involves employing anti-keylogging tools, maintaining updated security software, and adopting secure browsing practices.

Logic Bombs

A logic bomb constitutes a specialized form of malware designed to execute a malicious action when specific conditions are met, often triggered by a predetermined event or timeframe. Unlike more conventional malware such as viruses or trojans, logic bombs do not actively replicate or propagate but remain dormant until their trigger conditions are satisfied. Upon activation, a logic bomb can unleash a range of malicious activities, from data destruction to system disruption. Notable real-life examples include the infamous Stuxnet worm, which contained a logic bomb element that targeted specific industrial systems when certain conditions were met.

Logic bombs share similarities with other malware types in terms of their potential for causing harm, but their key distinction lies in their latent, conditional nature. This sets them apart from viruses that actively spread or trojans that rely on user interactions for activation. Logic bombs are often employed as part of more complex cyber attacks, illustrating their role in orchestrating precise and targeted actions.

Identifying this category of malware poses a greater challenge compared to other forms. The dormant attributes inherent in such malware make it elusive within networks and computer systems. Consequently, this malware type stays inert and unnoticed until triggered by a specific action or event, initiating propagation or malicious activities. It is only at this point that security researchers or antivirus software can start the analysis of its behavior to detect and address the threat.

Fileless Malware

Fileless malware represents a sophisticated category designed to operate without leaving traditional file traces on a targeted system. Unlike conventional malware that relies on executable files, fileless malware operates primarily in system memory, leaving minimal artifacts and making detection challenging. This type of malware often exploits legitimate system tools and processes, such as PowerShell or WMI, to execute malicious activities, enabling it to evade traditional antivirus measures. A notable real-life example is the PowerGhost fileless malware, which utilized fileless techniques to facilitate cryptocurrency mining.

The distinct capability of fileless malware lies in its evasion of file-based detection methods, rendering it resistant to traditional security solutions. While trojans and worms may leverage fileless techniques, fileless malware differentiates itself by the absence of persistent files on the system. Its focus on memory-resident operations aligns with rootkits but extends to broader malicious objectives.

Preventing and mitigating fileless malware requires advanced security measures, including behavior-based detection, endpoint protection, and monitoring system memory activities. Understanding the intricacies of fileless malware is crucial for cybersecurity professionals, as it represents a paradigm shift in the evolving landscape of digital threats. The ability to adapt to this form of malware requires proactive defense strategies and the continuous advancement of security technologies to thwart the stealthy and elusive nature of fileless attacks.

Mobile Malware

Mobile malware constitutes a specialized category targeting smartphones and tablets, leveraging vulnerabilities in mobile operating systems to compromise device integrity. Unlike malware tailored for traditional computing platforms, mobile malware often infiltrates devices through malicious apps, compromised app stores, or phishing links. The capabilities of mobile malware encompass diverse malicious activities, including data theft, unauthorized access, and premium rate fraud. Real-life examples include the Android-based malware Gooligan, which targeted authentication tokens to gain unauthorized access, and the iOS-based Pegasus spyware, renowned for its advanced surveillance capabilities.

Mobile malware shares similarities with traditional malware types, such as trojans or spyware, in terms of exploiting vulnerabilities and compromising user data. However, its distinct focus on mobile platforms sets it apart, capitalizing on the unique features and app ecosystems of smartphones and tablets. While worms may propagate across mobile devices, mobile malware often exhibits a more targeted approach, exploiting specific vulnerabilities in mobile operating systems.

Preventing and mitigating mobile malware involves secure app installation practices, regular software updates, and the use of mobile security solutions. The dynamic nature of mobile platforms necessitates vigilant user behavior and continual advancements in mobile security technologies. Understanding the characteristics of mobile malware is essential for individuals and organizations seeking to fortify defenses against the evolving threats in the mobile landscape.

Macro Viruses

A macro virus constitutes a form of malware that leverages macros, scripted sequences of commands, within documents or files to execute malicious activities. Typically embedded in files such as Word or Excel documents, macro viruses exploit the programmable functionalities of these applications. When a user opens an infected document, the embedded macro code is executed, enabling the virus to carry out a range of harmful actions, from data corruption to facilitating the spread of the virus to other documents. A notable real-life example is the Melissa virus, which spread through infected Word documents via email attachments, causing widespread disruptions in 1999.

Macro viruses share similarities with other malware types, particularly trojans or worms, in their capacity to propagate and compromise system functionality. However, their distinctiveness lies in their exploitation of application-specific scripting features. Unlike fileless malware, macro viruses typically rely on document files as carriers and are distinct from rootkits or ransomware in terms of their primary mode of operation.

Preventing and mitigating macro viruses involves exercising caution when opening email attachments or downloading files, coupled with the use of antivirus software and regular software updates. As the threat landscape evolves, understanding the behavior and characteristics of macro viruses remains critical for individuals and organizations to implement effective security measures in the intricate realm of digital security.


A bootkit represents a sophisticated and stealthy category of malware that infects the Master Boot Record (MBR) or a boot sector, allowing it to gain control during the system boot process. Unlike traditional malware that may operate within the operating system, a bootkit embeds itself at a lower level, making it challenging to detect and remove. By manipulating the boot process, a bootkit can persistently compromise system integrity and facilitate a range of malicious activities. Real-life examples include the Alureon (TDL) bootkit, which targeted Windows systems, and the Rustock bootkit, known for its rootkit and spamming capabilities.

The capabilities of a bootkit extend beyond traditional malware as it establishes a foothold at the boot level, enabling it to evade many security measures. While rootkits may share some similarities in their stealthy nature, bootkits focus specifically on the compromise of the boot process, differentiating them from fileless malware or trojans.

Preventing and mitigating bootkit threats involves secure boot processes, regular firmware updates, and employing advanced security measures that can detect and remove threats at the MBR level. Understanding the distinct characteristics of bootkits is crucial for cybersecurity professionals, as they navigate the complex landscape of digital security and seek to fortify defenses against threats operating at the foundational level of system booting.

Polymorphic Malware

Polymorphic malware represents a sophisticated variant capable of dynamically changing its code, altering its appearance with each iteration to evade detection by traditional signature-based antivirus solutions. This adaptive nature sets polymorphic malware apart from static forms of malware, as it constantly modifies its code while retaining its core functionality. This ability to shape-shift renders traditional signature-based detection less effective, challenging security measures. Real-life examples include the Storm Worm, which exhibited polymorphic traits to maintain its presence, and the Virlock ransomware, known for its polymorphic file-infector characteristics.

The capabilities of polymorphic malware extend beyond conventional malware types due to its unique ability to morph its code continually. Unlike fileless malware or trojans that may exhibit specific functionalities, polymorphic malware focuses on code obfuscation to thwart detection, making it a persistent and adaptable threat.

Preventing and mitigating polymorphic malware requires advanced security measures such as behavior-based detection, heuristic analysis, and machine learning algorithms capable of recognizing patterns indicative of polymorphic behavior.

Multipartite Viruses

Multipartite viruses represent a hybrid category of malware that combines characteristics from different types of malware, making them versatile and challenging to combat. Unlike single-minded viruses or trojans, multipartite viruses possess the ability to infect systems through various means, such as attaching themselves to executable files, infecting boot sectors, or utilizing macro-based infection vectors. The capability to exploit multiple avenues for infection enhances their adaptability and persistence. A real-life example is the Tequila virus, which combined characteristics of boot sector viruses and file-infecting viruses to maximize its impact in the late 20th century.

Multipartite viruses share commonalities with polymorphic malware in their adaptability, but they extend their capabilities beyond dynamic code changes. The multifaceted nature of multipartite viruses incorporates different infection techniques, making them more complex and harder to eradicate. Unlike fileless malware, multipartite viruses leave distinct traces across various infection vectors.

Mitigating multipartite virus threats requires a comprehensive approach involving the use of updated antivirus solutions, secure computing practices, and regular system audits. As these viruses exploit diverse infection routes, understanding their multifaceted nature is crucial for implementing effective cybersecurity measures. In the ever-evolving landscape of digital security, multipartite viruses pose a unique challenge, emphasizing the need for dynamic defense strategies and continuous advancements in security technologies.


Droppers represent a category of malware specifically designed to deliver and install additional malicious payloads onto a targeted system. Unlike standalone malware that may carry out various malicious activities, droppers focus on the discreet delivery of secondary malware, such as trojans, ransomware, or worms. The primary function of a dropper is to infiltrate a system, often employing obfuscation techniques to evade detection, and then execute the payload it carries. Real-life examples include the infamous Emotet malware, where the initial dropper is responsible for introducing banking trojans or other malware onto compromised systems.

The capabilities of droppers lie in their ability to act as a gateway for more sophisticated and potentially damaging malware. They may use various infiltration methods, including exploiting software vulnerabilities, leveraging social engineering, or disguising themselves within seemingly harmless files. Unlike polymorphic malware that dynamically changes its code to evade detection, droppers focus on the efficient and stealthy deployment of secondary payloads.


Scareware represents a deceptive category of software designed to exploit user anxiety and coerce them into taking unwanted actions under the false pretense of a security threat. Typically manifesting as aggressive pop-up messages or fake security alerts, scareware aims to instill fear in users by falsely asserting the presence of malware or security vulnerabilities on their systems. Its primary objective is to manipulate users into purchasing fraudulent antivirus software, security subscriptions, or services. Real-life examples include the notorious “Microsoft Security Essentials” scareware, which masqueraded as legitimate security software to deceive users into paying for unnecessary services.

The capabilities of scareware lie in its ability to create a sense of urgency and panic through misleading tactics, often accompanied by alarming visuals and urgent messages. Unlike traditional malware that directly compromises system integrity or steals data, scareware exploits psychological manipulation to achieve its objectives. In contrast to ransomware, which encrypts files and demands a ransom, scareware relies on deception rather than direct harm.

Mitigating scareware threats involves user education to recognize and ignore deceptive alerts, employing reputable antivirus software, and maintaining skepticism regarding unsolicited security warnings.


Cryptojacking represents a surreptitious form of cyber attack wherein unauthorized individuals exploit computing resources to mine cryptocurrencies without the knowledge or consent of the affected users. Unlike traditional malware that seeks to directly compromise data or system integrity, cryptojacking capitalizes on the computational power of hijacked devices to perform resource-intensive cryptographic calculations required for cryptocurrency mining. In this scenario, attackers deploy malicious scripts or software that run in the background, utilizing the victim’s processing power, often leading to performance degradation and increased electricity consumption. Real-life examples include the Coinhive cryptojacking script, embedded in websites, which utilized visitors’ browsers to mine the Monero cryptocurrency.

The capabilities of cryptojacking lie in its ability to leverage distributed computing resources, making it challenging to detect and trace. Unlike ransomware that demands a ransom for data decryption, cryptojacking operates covertly, generating revenue for attackers through cryptocurrency mining. The key difference from scareware or droppers is the absence of deceptive tactics or secondary malware payloads.

Identifying CryptoJacking incidents is typically a straightforward task that users can undertake themselves. This is primarily because these types of malware generate noticeable disturbances on the computer as they engage in resource-intensive mining activities. Consequently, computers often exhibit signs of sluggishness or lag, providing a clear indication of the malware’s impact on the system.

Banking Trojans

Banking trojans represent a specialized category of malware designed to target online banking systems and financial institutions with the intent of stealing sensitive financial information. Unlike other forms of malware, banking trojans focus specifically on intercepting and manipulating banking-related transactions, such as login credentials and account details. Once infiltrated, these trojans operate covertly, often employing sophisticated techniques like web injection or keylogging to capture user data during online banking sessions. Real-life examples include the notorious Zeus (Zbot) trojan, which targeted financial institutions globally and facilitated large-scale financial fraud.

The capabilities of banking trojans extend beyond data theft, encompassing fraudulent transactions, unauthorized fund transfers, and even the manipulation of two-factor authentication processes. This distinguishes them from scareware or droppers, as banking trojans directly compromise financial security rather than relying on psychological manipulation or serving as delivery mechanisms for other malware.

Written by: Z. Oualid

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About the author

Z. Oualid

I am a Cyber Security Expert, I have worked with many companies around the globe to secure their applications and their networks. I am certified OSCP and OSCE which are the most recognized and hard technical certifications in the industry of cybersecurity. I am also a Certifed Ethical hacker (CEH). I hope you enjoy my articles :).

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