Viruses and malware are constantly evolving, becoming more advanced and more dangerous by the second, making it extremely difficult to keep your data protected. Unless you’re properly protected (which most people aren’t), you’re at risk of becoming a victim of the latest computer virus threats and malware attacks.
Cybercriminals are relentless and will stop at nothing to hack your computer or phone to steal your most valuable data — including bank details, personal photos, and sensitive ID card information. This is why you must have a working antivirus installed on your PC, Mac, Android, or iPhone. I recommend Norton 360 for low-cost, secure protection against all cyber threats.
Here are the 10 most dangerous computer viruses and new malware threats in 2021 that you need to protect yourself from.
1. Clop Ransomware
Ransomware is malware which encrypts your files until you pay a ransom to the hackers. “Clop” is one of the latest and most dangerous ransomware threats. It’s a variant of the well-known CryptoMix ransomware, which frequently targets Windows users.
Before beginning the encryption process, the Clop ransomware blocks over 600 Windows processes and disables multiple Windows 10 applications, including Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials — leaving you with zero chance of protecting your data.
The Clop ransomware has evolved since its inception, now targeting entire networks — not just individual devices. Even the Maastricht University in the Netherlands became a victim of the Clop ransomware, with almost all Windows devices on the university’s network being encrypted and forced to pay a ransom.
2. Fake Windows Updates (Hidden Ransomware)
Hackers have been increasingly sending emails that instruct readers to install urgent Windows OS updates. The emails trick readers into installing the “latest” Windows updates, which are actually ransomware ‘.exe’ files in disguise.
The ransomware contained in these emails is known as “Cyborg”. It encrypts all of your files and programs and demands a ransom payment to un-encrypt the files.
Unfortunately, many email service providers and basic antivirus software aren’t able to detect and block these emails. This is why you must be using an antivirus that provides proper internet security, protecting you from dangerous emails.
3. Zeus Gameover
Zeus Gameover is part of the “Zeus” family of malware and viruses. This piece of malware is a Trojan — malware disguised as something legitimate — that accesses your sensitive bank account details and steals all of your funds.
The worst thing about this particular variant of the Zeus malware family is that it doesn’t require a centralized “Command and Control” server to complete transactions — which is a flaw found in many cyberattacks that authorities can target. Instead, Zeus Gameover can bypass centralized servers and create independent servers to send sensitive information. In essence, you cannot trace your stolen data.
“RaaS” — also known as “Ransomware as a Service” — is a growing industry in the underground hacker community. People without the knowledge to carry out a sophisticated ransomware attack can pay to hire a professional hacker or team of hackers to perform the attack for them.
The growth of the underground RaaS industry is worrying, as it shows how easy it is to infect people with ransomware despite the bad actors having no previous experience with designing or coding malware.
5. News Malware Attacks
Cybercriminals often use current news stories and global events to target people with malware.
One example is hackers using the wave of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak to target individuals with malware. Hackers send out emails that are disguised as legitimate information about the outbreak. Readers are prompted to click a link to learn more about the information, but the link contains malware that copies the files on your device and steals your personal information.
Research currently focuses on the spread of this malware in Japan. Still, it will become an issue worldwide during any kind of newsworthy outbreak.
Fleeceware continues to charge app users large amounts of money despite users deleting those apps. Recent research has found that over 600 million Android users have downloaded “Fleeceware” onto their device in the past few years.
Although Fleeceware doesn’t pose a considerable security threat to a user’s device and data, it’s still very common, and it’s a shady practice by app developers wanting to cash in on unsuspecting users.
7. IoT Device Attacks
As the popularity of IoT (Internet of Things) devices grows in 2021 — things like smart speakers and video doorbells — hackers are looking to exploit these devices for valuable information.
There are multiple reasons why hackers choose to target IoT devices. For one, most IoT devices don’t have enough storage to install proper security measures. These devices often contain easy-to-access data such as passwords and usernames, which then can be used by hackers to log into user accounts and steal valuable information, such as banking details.
Hackers can also use internet-based cameras and mics to spy on and communicate with people — including young children via smart baby monitors.
These devices can also act as weak points in a corporation’s network, meaning hackers can gain access to entire systems through unsecured IoT devices — spreading malware to other devices across the network.
8. Social Engineering
Humans are possibly the weakest link in any security protocol. This is why cybercriminals are now turning to human psychology and deception to try and gain access to personal information.
The hacker will start by contacting a company or service provider and pretend to be a specific person. They’ll ask questions regarding the victim’s account and trick the customer support team into handing over pieces of sensitive information. Then, they’ll exploit that information to gain access to a person’s account and data, including payment details.
Although this isn’t a type of malware per se, social engineering is an alarming trend, as it doesn’t require hackers to know about coding or malware development. Instead, all the attacker needs is to be convincing and allow human error and complacency to reward them with the data they need.
Cryptojacking malware is designed to use a person’s computing power to help “mine” cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. Mining requires a huge amount of computing power to generate new crypto coins, which is why hackers are attempting to install cryptojacking malware on computers and mobile devices to help with the mining process — slowing down the user’s device considerably.
Although cryptojacking attacks dropped significantly in previous years — mainly due to the sharp fall in the value of cryptocurrencies, this trend remains a threat. Cryptocurrency prices continue to rise through 2021, with Bitcoin booming over $40,000 as recently as January. Given the value of cryptocurrency, cryptojacking malware attacks will continue to be lucrative for cybercriminals.
10. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Attacks
As more tools become available to developers who want to program AI scripts and software, hackers will be able to use this same technology to carry out devastating cyberattacks.
Although cybersecurity companies are using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to help combat malware, these technologies can also be exploited to hack devices and networks on a massive scale.
Cyberattacks can often cost cybercriminals a lot in terms of time and resources. So, with the expansion of AI and machine learning technologies, we can only expect hackers to develop highly-advanced and destructive AI-based malware in 2021 and beyond.
Defending Yourself from Cybercrime
Your sensitive data, bank details, sentimental photos, private messages — what are they worth to you? They’re priceless.
So how are you defending yourself from new malware and cyberattacks?
Most people are only using basic antivirus software and maybe some other cybersecurity tools to protect themselves. But the truth is that most antivirus programs don’t keep you 100% protected from new malware — you’re likely still vulnerable to the latest virus threats.