This article is set to explain and inform you on the most used file types that could eventually turn out to be malicious and infect Windows computers if they are executed on then and give you tips on how you can learn to manually spot such files and refrain from downloading them.
It was estimated that around 400 thousand new viruses infect computers on a daily basis. While conservative numbers, these are likely to increase in the years to come and what is scary is that almost 80% of those infections fall into infections with malicious file types. This si why, it is essential for today’s user to learn how to spot such files and thus prevent and infection from becoming a reality.
The infection methods have quite evolved the last few years, but what stays the same is the types of files used, which are generally the same Windows-based file types that are executable or could be embedded nefarious code in order to infect computers with malware. In this artice we will show you the different malicious files and explain more about how you can become compromised with malware by opening them.
Which File Types are Used Most Often to Infect PCs?
There are a lot of file types that serve different functions and with the proper coding skills or scripts available, they can be turned into obfuscated cyber-weapon to serve their masters’ purpose. The most often chosen files are the file types that can easily trick you into believing the file is legitimate, but I the same time the file itself can easily be masked from antivirus programs. Below you can see the most often chosen files that malware authors are using at the moment.
Custom File Types
These types of files are usually virus modules or support files of the malware itself and they can work only with the virus program. They may be absolutely any extension, ranging from the virus’s name to some humorous extensions, like .exeeee, .iamavirus, .fun and others.
Other Malicious File Types
Besides the main malicious file types, you can still have some other payload and manipulated types of files, which are designed for very specific purposes. These files tend to serve concrete functions to the viruses they aim to infect with or support. Here are some of those files below:
.MSI File Type (MSI Installers)
These are installer types of files that are used in order to situate various types of programs on the computers of victims and they are often used in the form of setups for software. Malware authors may use these .MSI files to slither malicous executables and set them to be activated, when you click o “Finish” of the program you are trying to install. Usually these programs are often downloaded free software from third-party sites, like your favorite file converter, movie player and other software.
.MSP File Type (Patch Installers)
Serving the same purpose as .MSI files, the .MSP files are oriented towards patching and a hacker may use them in order to modify these files with the main idea to get them to be added automatically on the computers of users. These files represent fake patches that may compromise any program you may have on your computer towards malicious activities and turn it against you, besides infecting your PC with malware.
.GADGET File Type (Windows Desktop Gadgets)
These files are basically the Windows gadgets that were available with previous Windows versions, like 7 and Vista. They were often compromised with malware back then and the scarry part is that they are still used today, so many exploits on Windows machines that are not updated effectively could fall victims to Trojans, miner viruses and other types of malware.
.PS1, .PS1XML, .PS2, .PS2XML, .PSC1, .PSC2 File Types (Shell Scripts)
These file types are specific in the sense that they have been made In order to run PowerShell commands automatically and in the background of the victimized machine. If the hackers obtain administrator privileges, these files may be a big menace for your computer, because they can run almost any command on Windows PoweShell as an administrator, which basically means full control of the system.
.LNK File Type (Shortcuts)
These types of shortcuts are used primarily to link software the is usually locally stored on the victim PC. It may trigger the virus file if properly configured and this has happened quite a while now and this is why it is considered among the dangerous files. In addition to this a shortcut can also trigger scripts which can launch malicious programs or delete specific files on the compromised computers.
.INF File Type (Text files)
These files are not ggenerally dangerous, but they can often perform various activities that can be combined to launch programs. And if those programs are malware, this makes .INF files also of a malicious type.
.SCF File Type (Windows Explorer)
These files are basically the link to Windows Explorer activities and they can be modified in order to perform malicious actions and manipulate the explorer.exe process which can ultimate lead the victimised computer to malware infection. They are also used for post-infection activities very often as well.
Conclusion and How to Protect Yourself
Knowing the file types that can lead to infection is sure beneficial, but knowing this in combination with how you can protect yourself effectively before opening a file is the best protection system. Since viruses are a very dynamic environment and they change daily, there could be some particular infections that you may not yet be aware of, since they may be unused before. This is the main reason why we advise you to follow the following tips in order to build-up a virus protection philosophy and know the next time a virus is out to gain control over your computer.
Tip 1: Make sure to install the appropriate protection software.
Tip 2: Learn how to safely store your important files and hence protect them from file encryptors or other malware.
Tip 3: Learn how to protect your computer from malicious e-mails.
Tip 4: Always make sure you scan a downloaded file. For archives, you can use the service Zip-e-Zip and for various file types and web links that you believe are malicious, you can use VirusTotal online scanner. Both services are completely free.
Tip 5: If you are ok with it, use Sandboxing, it is a very effective method to isolate malware within encrypted sandbox code, even if you do not have the proper protection. A good program to start with is Sandboxie.