Differences between Malware types ; Adware,Trojan Horse and Logic Bomb

It would be nice to present a clever taxonomy of malicious software, one that clearly shows how each type of malware relates to every other type. However, a taxonomy would give the quaint and totally incorrect impression that there is a scientific basis for the classification of malware. In fact, there is no universally-accepted definition of terms like "virus" and "worm," much less an agreed-upon taxonomy, even though there have been occasional attempts to impose mathematical formalisms onto malware. ^^^ Instead of trying to pin down these terms precisely, the common characteristics each type of malware typically has are listed.

Malware Types

Malware can be roughly broken down into types according to the malware's method of operation. Anti-"virus" software, despite its name, is able to detect all of these types of malware. There are three characteristics associated with these malware types.

1. Self-replicating malware actively attempts to propagate by creating new copies, or instances, of itself. Malware may also be propagated passively, by a user copying it accidentally, for example, but this isn't self-replication. 

2. The population growth of malware describes the overall change in the number of malware instances due to self-replication. Malware that doesn't self replicate will always have a zero population growth, but malware with a zero population growth may self-replicate. 

3. Parasitic malware requires some other executable code in order to exist. "Executable" in this context should be taken very broadly to include anything that can be executed, such as boot block code on a disk, binary code in applications, and interpreted code. It also includes source code, like application scripting languages, and code that may require compilation before being executed.
Logic Bomb

Self-replicating: no
Population growth: zero
Parasitic: possibly 

A logic bomb is code which consists of two parts: 

1. A payload, which is an action to perform. The payload can be anything, but has the connotation of having a malicious effect. 

2. A trigger, a boolean condition that is evaluated and controls when the payload is executed. The exact trigger condition is limited only by the imagination, and could be based on local conditions like the date, the user logged in, or the operating system version. Triggers could also be designed to be set off remotely, or - like the "dead man's switch" on a train - be set off by the absence of an event. Logic bombs can be inserted into existing code, or could be standalone. A simple parasitic example is shown below, with a payload that crashes the computer using a particular date as a trigger. 

legitimate code
if date is Friday the 13th:
legitimate code

Logic bombs can be concise and unobtrusive, especially in millions of lines of source code, and the mere threat of a logic bomb could easily be used to extort money from a company. In one case, a disgruntled employee rigged a logic bomb on his employer's file server to trigger on a date after he was fired from his job, causing files to be deleted with no possibility of recovery. He was later sentenced to 41 months in prison. Another case alleges that an employee installed a logic bomb on 1000 company computers, date-triggered to remove all the files on those machines; the person allegedly tried to profit from the downturn in the company's stock prices that occurred as a result of the damage.


Self-replicating: no
Population growth: zero
Parasitic: no

Adware has similarities to spyware in that both are gathering information about the user and their habits. Adware is more marketing-focused, and may pop up advertisements or redirect a user's web browser to certain web sites in the hopes of making a sale. Some adware will attempt to target the advertisement to fit the context of what the user is doing. For example, a search for "Calgary" may result in an unsolicited pop-up advertisement for "books about Calgary." Adware may also gather and transmit information about users which can be used for marketing purposes. As with spyware, adware does not self-replicate.

Trojan Horse

Self-replicating: no
Population growth: zero
Parasitic: yes

There was no love lost between the Greeks and the Trojans. The Greeks had besieged the Trojans, holed up in the city of Troy, for ten years. They finally took the city by using a clever ploy: the Greeks built an enormous wooden horse, concealing soldiers inside, and tricked the Trojans into bringing the horse into Troy. When night fell, the soldiers exited the horse and much unpleasantness ensued.

In computing, a Trojan horse is a program which purports to do some benign task, but secretly performs some additional malicious task. A classic example is a password-grabbing login program which prints authentic-looking "username" and "password" prompts, and waits for a user to type in the information. When this happens, the password grabber stashes the information away for its creator, then prints out an "invalid password" message before running the real login program. The unsuspecting user thinks they made a typing mistake and reenters the information, none the wiser. Trojan horses have been known about since at least 1972, when they were mentioned in a well-known report by Anderson, who credited the idea to D. J.Edwards.

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