What is a Worm?

A worm in cybersecurity is a standalone malware computer program that replicates itself to spread from one computer to other devices.

A worm leverages security loopholes to access a target system. Once a worm reaches one computer in a network, it uses the machine as a host to scan and infect other computers. It uses a computer network to spread.

Key Takeaways

How Does a Worm Work?

A computer worm uses a recursive method to copy themselves without a host program and distribute based on the law of exponential growth.

Computer worms rely on the actions of network protocols to propagate. The malicious programs also exploit existing vulnerabilities in systems. For instance, the WannaCry incident exploited a vulnerability on the Server Message Block (SMBv1) resource sharing protocol in Windows Operating System. Users also get infected by opening email attachments or visiting malicious webpages.

Once active on a newly infected computer, a worm initiates a network search for potential victims, allowing the program to propagate within an organization. If a company allows “bring your own device (BYOD) policy,” the worm can spread from work to home networks, giving cybercriminals even more access.

Impact of a Computer Worm?

A worm almost always causes some adverse impact on the target.

What are the Features of a Worm?

  1. Independence – a worm is an independent program or code chunk that does not require a host program. Malicious programs can run independently and actively cause attacks.
  2. Exploit Attacks – since a host program does not limit a computer worm, the malicious tool can take advantage of different operating system vulnerabilities to cause active attacks.
  3. Complexity – cybercriminals create worms that integrate with web page scripts and hide in HTML pages using technologies like VBScript and ActiveX. An unsuspecting user triggers the worm by visiting a webpage containing the malicious program.
  4. Contagious – worms are highly infectious as compared to a traditional virus. They infect local computers, servers, and clients on a network. The malicious programs easily spread through shared folders, infected webpages, emails, and vulnerable servers. Worms also spread through software vulnerabilities

Can a Worm Have Good Intent?

Some worms, commonly referred to as anti-worm, are helpful. The programs are designed to do something useful to the user. However, you should get the target’s consent before executing an anti-worm on their computers.

What are the uses of an anti-worm?

How Can I Tell if My Computer has a Worm?

You can run a virus scan to determine if your computer has a worm. You can also detect worms through the following steps:

How Can I Prevent Worms?

George Mutune

I am a cyber security professional with a passion for delivering proactive strategies for day to day operational challenges. I am excited to be working with leading cyber security teams and professionals on projects that involve machine learning & AI solutions to solve the cyberspace menace and cut through inefficiency that plague today's business environments.