The Worst Malware of 2018

In our year-end roundup of the worst malware threats of 2017, we compared malware to actual biological viruses, in that both are ever-evolving phenomena. For example, you know how it’s recommended for certain demographics to get a flu shot every year?  The rationale is simple: The flu virus itself is never identical from year to year, meaning that protective measures must be continually updated. The same is true for cybersecurity measures, since they must address a dynamic, not static, set of threats.


Issues that were once widespread, like floppy disk-based ransomware and exploits of specific vulnerabilities of Microsoft Windows XP, have faded away, while ones that were barely on the radar a decade ago – think cloud security complications, or strong-encryption ransomware – are now undeniable concerns. What should you take away from 2018, in terms of the biggest, baddest malware that might put your data at risk? Read on for our list of the year’s worst:

VPN Filter

A virtual private network (VPN) is a crucial defense against surveillance of your online activities, especially when you’re connected to an untrusted network like public Wi-Fi. VPN Filter, on the other hand, is the exact opposite – a robust malware strain that intercepts communications to and from infected devices.

VPN Filter affects Internet of Things (IoT) devices as well as conventional internet routers. It can spy on their traffic and even infect any laptop, tablet, phone, etc. connected to the same network. The FBI recommended a router reboot not long after VPN Filter came to light. It’s also a good idea to check your router for any weak/default administrator login credentials.


TrickBot wasn’t invented in 2018, but it did see a huge revival following some new modifications this year. It’s a banking Trojan, meaning it’s designed to harvest information from financial institutions. Although it’s unlikely that someone will encounter TrickBot directly in the course of everyday activity (unless you work for a high-profile bank), its design is still notable because it points the way to potential new malware permutations.

For starters, TrickBot is highly modular. Its components can be swapped in and out with ease, enabling cyberattackers to modify their tactics depending on the target. Moreover, it is most commonly spread via email phishing, one of the most popular and effective attack vectors – it lives in compromised Word and Excel email attachments. Finally, TrickBot can evade some forms of antivirus, underscoring the importance of having multi-layered protection like Total Defense Ultimate Internet Security.


Cool name, right? Unfortunately, GhostMiner taking over your system is about as uncool as it gets. GhostMiner is a form of cryptomining malware, designed to furtively infect Microsoft Windows PCs and harness their computing power to mine (i.e., solve mathematical problems) for cryptocurrencies in the background.

GhostMiner is also fileless: It leverages an executable process and doesn’t appear on the user-facing file system as something that can be removed. That makes it relatively difficult to detect and remove. Specialized scripts and tools can help, but as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – avoiding phishing schemes and risky websites can lower your risk of becoming infected with cryptomining malware.


Botnets are nothing new. However, the growing scope of the IoT and the prevalence of malware like Emotet mean that they’re bigger threats than ever. Emotet began as a banking Trojan but has become something much more sophisticated over time.

Like TrickBot, it’s modular. One of its modules can enlist infected devices into a botnet for carrying out distributed denial-of-service attacks. But the most alarming feature of Emotet is its ability to spread laterally between machines, without anyone needing to click on anything or take any other action. The best defense against it is the use of complex passwords and two-factor authentication to prevent the easy spread of the worm between devices.

Dealing with malware might not be simple, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Check our solutions today to see how you can gain peace of mind on all of your devices.