Malware vs. Ransomware vs. Phishing Attacks: How to Tell the Difference and Protect Yourself

Updated on January 18, 2023
Malware vs. Ransomware vs. Phishing Attacks: How to Tell the Difference and Protect Yourself


Cyberattacks on businesses and people are becoming more frequent. Cybercriminals look for increasingly complex ways to carry out their attacks as technology develops. The cyber world is currently seeing a rapid increase in offensive methods. Consequently, companies are forced to defend themselves against these changing dangers. Attacks using malware and ransomware are frequent dangers to corporate continuation. These words are frequently used synonymously, although they don’t mean the same thing. Let’s find out about them in more detail.

Malware vs. Ransomware Vs. Phishing

Many people mistakenly think malware,  ransomware, and phishing are related to the same thing. Even though these terms refer to software or technique that can harm a person or a business, there are several key differences between the three that you should be aware of to defend yourself from cyberattacks properly. Finally, threat actors can impede an organization’s ability to do business and protect data by using malware, phishing tricks, or ransomware.

The first step in improving your digital security is understanding malware, ransomware, and phishing, how they differ, and why you need to protect your business from them. It’s crucial to remember that they are related but different from each other.

●      What is Ransomware?

By a virus known as ransomware, your files can be encrypted and rendered unavailable unless you pay the crooks a ransom who sent the malware. The issue is that this malware isn’t just any virus; it’s been created to force you to pay money by seizing control of your computer and holding your contents hostage until you make a payment. Additionally, ransomware may function as a service or RaaS.

●    What is Malware?

Another threat that might infect your computer and render it useless is malware. Malware typically doesn’t request payment to leave your device. Instead, after taking over your system, it will often leave behind undesirable apps or files on your hard drive or laptop.

●    What is phishing?

Phishing is a trap set by scammers by sending emails or other online sources, causing people to take harmful actions. They either get access to users’ personal information or install malware or ransomware on their devices.

Also Read: How to Send an Anonymous Email Without Being Traced

Ransomware and Malware Vs. Phishing

So, What is Phishing? and how does it connect to ransomware or malware?

Phishing attacks entail sending emails with attachments or links that seem to come from reputable websites like Gmail or Facebook but instead point to dangerous websites run by cybercriminals who aim to steal information about you or other people online, so they may later commit identity fraud (like when trying to book online accommodation).

In targeted attacks, phishing emails are designed to appear as though they are from a reliable source, but they contain or link to harmful material that, when users open it, encrypts their data and demands a ransom.

Types of Phishing

  • Spear phishing

In contrast to phishing that targets random application users, spear phishing targets a specific individual or company. It’s a more sophisticated form of phishing that requires in-depth familiarity with an organization, including its hierarchy.

  • Business email compromise

In these attacks, the threat agents frequently assume the identity of a high-profile executive’s email account and use it to send emails to the organization’s employees with financial power requesting money transfers into bank accounts under the attackers’ control.

Significant Differences between Ransomware, Malware, and Phishing

Terms may seem like they have the same meaning, but they have some significant differences.

●    Delivery method:

Ransomware: It comes in Malicious attachments via phishing emails.

Malware: It is usually projected on you through links, emails, apps, installation, USB, or even websites.

Phishing: It is mostly a properly planned email or message with a harmful link.

●    Ease of removal:

Ransomware: It is not easy to remove as a victim pays the ransom or recovers from a valuable backup.

Malware: You can use moderate antivirus software to remove the malware.

Phishing: If email or message is not authorized, do not perform any action related to the context of a message.

●    Variety

Ransomware: There are two types of ransomware: locker and crypto.

Malware: Includes all kinds of dangerous software, such as viruses, trojan horses, etc.

Phishing: Mainly, they come across as links, emails, or messages from someone familiar.

●    Impact

Ransomware:  Ransomware’s effects are frequently severe and persistent. Ransomware attacks have forced many firms to stop operating.

Malware: Commodity malware can impair system performance and control data and resources, but it typically doesn’t shut down a company.

Phishing: It can compromise your personal information, infect your device or leak your information.

How to Recognize Ransomware?

The following signs could occur on a ransomware-infected device even before an attacker sends a ransom demand:

  • Abnormal file system operation, such as unsuccessful file changes.
  • Increased disc and CPU usage.
  • No access to the files.
  • Network communication that is unusual.
  • Diminished battery charge.

How to recognize Malware?

Malware can manifest itself through a wide range of abnormal activities. Here are a few warning indicators that malware is present on your computer:

  • Your PC sputters.
  • Your screen is covered in intrusive advertisements.
  • Your computer freezes.
  • You observe an unexplained loss of disc space.
  • The amount of Internet activity on your system has strangely increased.
  • The browser’s settings are modified.
  • You are left defenseless against the cunning malware that deactivated your antivirus program since it stops functioning, and you cannot turn it back on.
  • Your entire computer or your files are lost.

How can you protect your business from phishing and ransomware?

The use of conventional security measures that rely on malware signatures and fundamental guidelines for protection has shown to be inadequate against ransomware threats. Hackers build their ransomware to get around typical email and online security, which is prone to “set and forget” sets.

A thorough evaluation of the organization’s defenses against the ransomware threat should be conducted to see whether they are actually up to fending off the most recent threats. This evaluation takes into account but is not limited to

  • User consciousness.
  • Techniques for backup and recovery.
  • Procedures for managing patches and vulnerabilities.
  • Use of access controls and privileged accounts.
  • Whitelist and content filtering.
  • Endpoint security setups.
  • Response to incident procedures.
  • Utilization of threat-intelligence tools

What precautions do you need to prevent ransomware, malware, or Phishing?

The first thing is to stay aware of the types of scams, ransomware, and malware to stay safe from any kind of threat.

1.     Use a VPN

VPNs are effective security tools that increase your online safety. They provide anonymous internet access and shield your data from snoopers, trackers, and hackers.

Astrill VPN is the best VPN in this regard. When your connection drops, its Kill Switch feature prevents it from sending or receiving Internet traffic to or from your device. This prevents malware from attacking your device.

Astrill VPN’s security makes it the finest VPN for preventing any unsafe connection. It also offers a vast network of trustworthy servers. There are many different plans, such as a business plan and a VIP plan to help you get more features and benefits.

Also Read: How to Choose a VPN in 2023: Key Factors to Consider

2.     Install Antivirus Software

Make sure you have robust security software installed on all of your devices. This will help to protect you from ransomware and malware attacks. Any device, including smartphones and tablets, must have antivirus software. To safeguard your data, it checks your device for malicious files and quarantines or removes them.

Most malware programs may be removed by antivirus software before they harm your system, but you must keep it updated for it to be able to detect the most recent dangers.

   3. Be careful while clicking links

Be careful about which links you click on and which attachments you open. Phishing emails can be very convincing but often contain malicious links or attachments that can infect your device with ransomware or malware.

  4. Protecting Your Passwords and Data

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against ransomware, malware, and phishing is to create strong passwords and keep them safe.

Check: Password Leak Test

Here are a few tips for doing just that:

  • Use a unique password for each account
  • Make sure your passwords are strong, with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Keep your passwords in a safe place where others can’t access them

5. Beware of sharing everything online

Be aware of what you’re sharing online. Phishing scams can often be preceded by a seemingly innocuous request for information like your address or phone number. Don’t share any personal information with anyone unless you’re sure of their identity.

FAQs About Malware vs. Ransomware vs. Phishing

Is there something common in Ransomware, Malware, or Phishing?

Malware, phishing, and ransomware all share one thing in common: You can prevent the harm caused by a possible threat. By taking steps to protect your organization from harmful intrusions, you can lower your risk of attack. The crucial measures outlined above will help you identify ransomware, phishing, and malware and guarantee the security of the crucial data kept on your networks.

Is phishing a malware?

It can be a simple scam, or it can be malware. It just depends on the type of attack. Phishing scams work by deceiving the user into doing an action; for instance, in URL phishing, hackers urge victims to visit a bogus website and divulge important information like passwords. The website frequently requests that users change their passwords, reenter their personal and financial information to confirm their accounts, or download a “software update” that is malware.

What is threatware?

Any software intended to enter your computer or network to cause harm or steal user credentials is referred to as threatware. The most common way that threatware is spread is through email. These threatware emails are crafted to look authentic so that their victims think they are coming from a friend or coworker.

What is the difference between malware and viruses?

Although malware can operate in a variety of ways, most begin by providing a way for adversaries to have ongoing access to a machine, allowing them to enter a network whenever they choose. After entering the system, the virus seizes control to communicate with the original source. Sensitive information may be transmitted through it.

The victim must initiate the attack by either opening an infected application, downloading a damaged file, or visiting an infected link for a virus to become active. Once activated, the virus may carry out any of the functions it was programmed to carry out, such as erasing files, encrypting data, seizing control of system operations, or deactivating security settings.

What is worse, malware or ransomware?

Ransomware. It is a subset of malware that shares many characteristics with that category. Unlike a virus or malware, which gives hackers complete access to your computers, ransomware simply prevents access to your private and confidential files until a ransom is paid (hence the name).

Who can fall victim to ransomware?

In the same way that advances in technology and digital technology have made our lives simpler, ransomware has also become more practical for hackers. The range of their potential victims expands since today, and anyone can become a victim.

Bottom line

Finally, anyone can be a target of this ransomware and malware. The purpose is to scam and somehow collect some money or make you do some illegitimate action for their benefit. So, it is better to use all the precautionary measures and save yourself from getting caught in between anything like this. They can be very dangerous.

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About The Author

Arsalan Rathore

Arsalan Rathore is a tech geek who loves to pen down his thoughts and views on cybersecurity, technology innovation, entertainment, and social issues. He likes sharing his thoughts about the emerging tech trends in the market and also loves discussing online privacy issues.

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