The Future of Malware Attacks

The Future of Malware Attacks

What is Malware?

Malware is short for malicious software, and it refers to any software that is created with the intention of harming or exploiting a computer system. There are numerous types of malware ranging from worms and viruses, to Trojans, spyware, and ransomware.

Malware can be spread through a variety of means, including email attachments, websites, instant messaging, and infected removable media (i.e., disks and USB drives). It is important to protect your computer by keeping your operating system and antivirus software up to date and being cautious about downloading and opening unknown files.

Most Common Types of Malware


A virus is a malware file that, when activated, can copy itself and spread between the folders on  a computer, inserting its malicious code into different programs. Viruses are a fast-spreading means of infecting systems and stealing financial and other personal information, lock systems, or send spam.


A worm is similar to a virus in that it can replicate itself within a system, but it cannot spread to other programs like a virus. If a worm is installed on a computer, it can run silently and infect other computers while the user remains unaware. It can self-replicate hundreds or thousands of times, damaging the affected devices and taking up system resources.


A Trojan horse is a piece of malware that disguises itself as a legitimate program but is actually intended for a malicious purpose. Trojans often pose as free games, antivirus programs, or updates, hoping to trick the victim user into installing them on their device. They can then run quietly in the background to exfiltrate important data and install backdoors, as well and perform other harmful tasks.


Ransomware has become a major malware trend for highly skilled attackers. Ransomware works by encrypting a victim’s data and blocking access to it until the victim pays a ransom. The most popular way to deliver ransomware is to lure a victim into clicking a malicious email link or opening a malicious file attachment.


Spyware refers to software that, once installed on the device, can secretly monitor the victim’s online activity. It collects various data such as browsing activity, passwords, and credit card numbers.


Adware is a type of software that, when downloaded, inadvertently displays advertisements on victims’ computers. Adware isn’t as fast to collect and exfiltrate data as other forms of malware, but it is still potentially harmful, as it can redirect users to malicious sites, slow down the user’s device and hurt productivity.


Bots are malware-infected devices that perform damaging tasks without their users’ knowledge. A botnet is the network of infected devices that work together to carry out bot attacks, under the attacker’s control. Botnets are often used to send spam, execute phishing campaigns, or conduct DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks.

Malware and Vulnerability Trends in 2022

In the first half of 2022, vulnerability exploits and malware attacks were ambitious and long-lived. The main types of malware included:

  • Data wipers (e.g., the cyberattacks against Ukraine).
  • Data stealers (including variants that surged in popularity after initially disappearing).
  • Ransomware. 

Defenders focussed most on vulnerabilities like Log4Shell at the start of 2022, while the middle of the year saw the focus shift to Follina. Attackers exploited this vulnerability using malicious documents without macros. The most referenced variants of malware attacks include Cobalt Strike, Pegasus, Conti, Emotet, and DeadBolt. Cobalt Strike was significantly more cited than other threats, highlighting its persistent presence across many hacking campaigns.

The most referenced vulnerabilities that resulted in cyberattacks in early 2022 included Log4Shell (which impacted Apache Log4J), Follina (Windows), and ProxyShell (Microsoft Exchange Server. Other notable vulnerabilities were found in the Java Spring Framework and Atlassian Confluence. Attacks included both known vulnerability exploits and zero-day exploits. 

The second half of 2022 saw ransomware as the main cause for concern. The growing adoption of multi-factor authentication (MFA) has driven many cybercriminals to adapt their methods. Likewise, the Russian offensive against Ukraine has spurred the development of new tactical malware.

The Future of Malware—Self-Learning Malware

Machine learning models (ML models) enable developers to build applications that can perform cognitive tasks and adapt to changing environments. These systems can analyze data to identify patterns and use that knowledge to automatically take action, without human intervention.

While scientists are using AI and ML for the good, hackers are using it to create new types of malware and conduct advanced cyberattacks. 

An early example of self-learning malware was Olympic Destroyer, a type of malware that collected user credentials from an infected computer while updating its source code. It would use passwords to break into other computers and spread the infection. However, Olympic Destroyer could only follow instructions written in its source code. As it spread, it didn’t really evolve or develop new features.

AI can be used to build true self-learning malware that can completely change its behavior as it spreads. Viruses of this type can be continuously updated as they analyze security defenses, develop their own exploits, and learn more about the target environment.

Self-learning malware that can change its behavior would be more difficult to detect, especially since it could learn how to disable or circumvent anti-malware tools. Some experts predict that self-taught malware will lead to major security breaches by 2024.


In conclusion, the future of malware attacks is likely to involve the continued evolution and development of new and more sophisticated forms of malware. Self-learning malware, which uses machine learning algorithms to adapt and evolve over time, is one example of a new and potentially more dangerous type of malware that is expected to become more prevalent in the future. 

It is important for individuals and organizations to stay up to date on the latest threats and to take steps to protect themselves, such as keeping software and security systems up to date and being cautious about downloading and opening unknown files. While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of malware attacks, taking proactive measures can help to minimize the likelihood and impact of such attacks.

Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.


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