What Type of Malware Disguises Itself as a Useful Program?

Cyber criminals are adept at using emotional manipulation to fool people into downloading malware. After all, we’re more likely to click on something if we think it will benefit us. Learn about the different types of deceptive malware and the steps you can take to prevent an attack.


Any malicious software that wreaks havoc on your computer and that you downloaded unintentionally is malware. Malware is a blanket term for ransomware, viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, and other malicious software that cyber criminals use to steal sensitive information and lock you out of your system.

Once malware has made its way into your computer system, it can allow hackers to steal and sell credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other personal information. Sometimes, cyber criminals will block access to your system and demand a ransom to regain access. A malware attack’s financial repercussions can be devastating, and companies can lose their stellar reputations if customer information is leaked.

How Deceptive Malware Is Distributed

How does malware get on your computer? Some savvy criminals can gain access to poorly-protected systems and install malware manually, but in many cases, they find ways to get you to do it yourself through social engineering. Oftentimes, malware will disguise itself as a useful program to trick you into downloading it. There are a few methods that get you to install deceptive malware, including:

  • Email links: Unfortunately, phishing emails are quite common. Employees who use email as their primary form of communication may not even think twice before clicking a link or opening an email attachment. Clicking links is most likely when your employees are led to believe they need assistance with something. For example, your employee may get an email from “Microsoft” telling them their email account was compromised, and they must click a link to recover their account.
  • Pop-up ads: If you’re scrolling through an article and an ad pops up telling you that you have a virus and need to download their antivirus software immediately, you may be enticed to do so. Unfortunately, pop-up ads often advertise malware disguised as useful software to get you to click before considering the ramifications. You should always be wary of pop-up ads that use emotional manipulation techniques to fool you into clicking a malicious link.
  • Software downloads: It can be extremely frustrating to use a slow, outdated computer. There are many legitimate steps you can take to make your computer run faster, but you need to be wary of deceptive software. You decide to download a performance optimizer to fix your sluggish computer, but what you actually downloaded was malicious software that fooled you into believing it would solve your problem. Always be careful when downloading something new if you’re not sure it’s legitimate software.

Identifying and Preventing Deceptive Malware

As a rule of thumb, you should always be wary of emails, ads, or software that claims to provide a useful service. Some fake emails can look completely legitimate and appear to be from Apple, Microsoft, or Google. It’s easy to panic-click when you receive an email saying you need to reset your password, secure your account, or fix a buggy system. However, unless you have a way to confirm the email truly came from a trustworthy source, avoid clicking links or opening attachments.

Some obvious giveaways of disguised malware are poorly-worded messages, misspelled email addresses, and panic-inducing phrases. If you’re looking for a driver update from Microsoft and the webpage you’re on says you should download the update ASAP to prevent issues, then it’s probably not an actual Microsoft driver. Real company representatives won’t use panic-inducing language to force you into downloading something.

Malware Prevention Solutions for Any Business

To ensure your company doesn’t fall victim to computer viruses, malicious programs, or software vulnerabilities, let ITque evaluate your operating system and educate your employees on detecting malware. ITque manages IT concerns for over 100 California businesses, and our team has decades of combined experience providing security solutions for small- and medium-sized companies.

Malware attacks can threaten your financial security and have a devastating impact on your reputation. Having knowledgeable employees that can recognize emotional manipulation and common malware scams is the best way to prevent malicious software from damaging your system and wreaking financial havoc. Contact ITque today to schedule a free IT audit and learn more about how we can educate your employees, identify unsafe practices, and improve your cyber security.