A Hybrid Worm is a modernized malicious program, “crossbred” to contain the properties of viruses and worms. This means that unlike a standard computer virus, it is capable of executing without the need of a host program.
When you hear the term worm, you immediately think of parasitic, wiggly little things that reside beneath the surface, or somewhere inside your hardware if we’re talking about computers. Parasites are easily spread, which means that if you are near them long enough, you are likely to catch them, too!
Computer worms are malicious pieces of code, written for the sole purpose in carrying out nefarious tasks like replicating as many times as possible and infecting devices they come in contact with. As long as these programs are active, they are replicating, spreading and oftentimes avoiding detection.
The HYBRID WORM, on the other hand, is a bit more sophisticated, containing characteristics of both viruses and worms. It is a standalone program that is capable of invoking and transmitting its malicious payload. While the typical computer virus depends on an active operating system and file(s) it can latch onto, a hybrid worm is self-sufficient and can “mix and match” how it performs it malicious actions.
The Frankenmalware Hybrid Worm
As of 2012, a new iteration of the hybrid worm, effectively dubbed Frankenmalware, has continued to surface in the wild from the interweaving of loose binary data. Its development process involves the invasion of computer viruses into a system already riddled with computer worms.
These viruses don’t just attach themselves to a host of benign software programs, but infect the worms in the system, as well. The result is a hybrid worm that replicates when it comes into contact with new devices, carrying with it the viruses that are attached to it.
Nimda, CodeRed and other Hybrid Worms
Needless to say, a hybrid worm can devastate any device it infects. Nimda, which spells ‘admin’ in reverse, first appeared in 2001 but has inspired a litany of malicious variants. Each of these programs target devices by their quote-un-quote “compatibility.” Some of these programs are so potent that if a user were to simply click the subject line of an email, a computer could be immediately infected.
The Nimda hybrid worm gives attackers complete and unfiltered access to the content present on the infected machine, and by extension, other devices on the network. There is, however, a restriction: Nimda and similar worms seem to only affect users running the Windows family of operating systems.
Another hybrid worm known as Code Red (or CodeRed) also continues to circulate the Internet. Its virus component, like most others, was primarily distributed as an email attachment. But once opened, the message would suddenly display no visible attachment. Instead, the virus would immediately download into temporary location and begin scanning for vulnerabilities. Several patches have since been issued by Microsoft, but many experts have begun fearing the possibility of a new Code Red virus war.
How to Prevent a Hybrid Worm Infection
The most obvious way to prevent a hybrid worm infection is to avoid opening suspicious and unsolicited emails. Every device has some sort of vulnerability, and direct downloads are a surefire way to cause infection. You should also consider disabling active content in your email client, which would keep macro viruses from executing.
Users should also make a point to keep their Windows operating system up-to-date with patches and version upgrades. This will ensure you have the best security possible. As expensive as it may seem, it may be worth retiring those systems that are no longer supported, or investing in new operating system software altogether.
Finally, whether using a desktop or mobile device, EVERY Internet user should be running an updated copy of antivirus (AV) software. There are tons of these apps available on the market with services ranging from content filtering, real-time scanning and endpoint protection. If your device if infected with a hybrid worm or any malicious software for that matter, head over to our product reviews to find the best product for you!