The danger of riskware is that even legitimate, functional programs can have vulnerabilities that hackers may target and exploit. Any software that has the slightest likelihood of causing damage by malicious users is considered riskware. That’s where the caveat comes in because riskware isn’t always malware.
What Is Riskware?
Riskware is legitimate and illegitimate software that is vulnerable to cyber threats.
Oftentimes, riskware is not designed to be malicious. Rather, the programs have functionalities that hackers will exploit. This type of software is not a definite risk, but a possible one.
Typically, hackers are able to infiltrate a program because of development vulnerabilities or data breaches. There is also the possibility that a program is blatantly abusing the privacy practices of its users and bundling illegitimate software with a legitimate program.
How Can You Spot Riskware?
Because riskware isn’t always a definite malware threat that antivirus programs will detect, it’s important to manually vet potential vulnerabilities. Outdated operating systems and apps that developers no longer update are particularly vulnerable to malicious users and can generally be considered riskware.
Additionally, the terms and conditions of your software can be a signal of riskware. If two programs interact and one disables features of another, the program disabling those features may be riskware.
Lastly, confirm that you authorized a program’s permissions. Any permission that you didn’t directly authorize could be a sign of riskware. These programs commonly attempt to gain access to the system’s core data, internet functionality, and hardware such as microphones and cameras.
Types of Vulnerable Programs
Riskware examples include software that violates laws, monitors user behavior, or has vulnerabilities that provide access for malware.
The following types of programs are often associated as riskware:
- Internet Relay Chat Clients: Programs that allow for instant messaging and dialer programs such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can have extended features that are exploited by malicious users. In the worst case, a backdoor would allow a malicious user to write dangerous script unbeknownst to the chat user, leaving them susceptible to malware.
- Remote Access Software: Also called Virtual Network Computing (VNC), this type of software allows remote access to your desktop, software, utilities, and administrator privileges. While these programs are often legitimate, they can leave users open to security risks if the software is not properly secured against hackers.
- Internet Server Services: When a malicious user finds another user that allows file transfer protocol’s full access to their administrative privileges, they can install a server. This gives the hacker access to all files while the user is on the internet. This practice can be present on file downloaders such as web and proxy servers, programs to transfer files over the internet, and auto-installers for mobile devices.
How To Remove Infected Software
Malware attempts to exploit security vulnerabilities within developmental errors of a program. Typically, these threats are bundled with legitimate programs that run once the original program is opened. If your computer warns that riskware is detected on a website or application, proceed with caution.
If you suspect that riskware has already been downloaded, uninstall the program and run an antivirus detection software to find and remove potential threats lurking in hidden scripts.
How To Prevent Riskware
Fully preventing riskware takes being cautious with any program you use. On a macro level, always practice safe computer habits like visiting trustworthy websites to proactively protect against malware:
- Read the Terms and Conditions thoroughly and delete software that prohibits other software from functioning properly.
- Avoid software that requests excessive permissions without a clear reason.
- Only download software through official vendors like the Apple Store or Google play store.
- Always read the prompts when installing new programs.
- Never download illegal or explicit material on your device.
- Avoid running programs that have administrator privileges.
- Only keep the programs you have authorized on your computer.
Safe computer habits and a proper antivirus defense are the best way to protect yourself against riskware on your system. Be proactive when allowing permissions, and avoid allowing unnecessary privileges. If you suspect malware on your device, carefully vet any programs and applications that have been installed, deleting any that you haven’t authorized.