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Malware has long since been something tech users are wary of, and a pretty serious headache for all of its victims. A newly discovered malware, however, seems to do the exact opposite by preventing its victims from accessing piracy sites and downloading pirated content. 

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SophosLabs Principal Researcher Andrew Brandt refers to the new discovery as a "vigilante malware" in a post on the SophosLabs website. He also describes the malware as "one of the strangest cases" he's seen in a while.

Malware: How It's Supposed to Be

Malware, short for malicious software, is designed to cause harm to its victims. Forms of malware include viruses, Trojans, spyware, and many more. Depending on the type of malware you have in your system, its damage ranges from causing system errors to stealing your private information, including passwords and bank details.

The new so-called vigilante malware, in theory, still has the same intent. It's shaping up to be a major hassle for anyone who likes to access piracy websites and download pirated content. 

Examples of malware that have circulated in the past years include a COVID-19-themed malware that was disguised as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and a WhatsApp malware that placed invasive ads in devices.

How This 'Vigilante' Malware Works

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According to Ars Technica, the malware is actually hidden in pirated software and games available online. Once an infected pirated software or game has been downloaded by the unknowing victim, the malware sends information that includes the victim's IP address to an attacker-controlled server. 

After that, the vigilante malware then modifies the computer's HOSTS file to prevent the user from accessing piracy and torrent websites. 

Are the changes to the computer's system permanent? Not really, according to Brandt.

"Anyone can remove the entries after they've been added to the HOSTS file," he said. They also stay removed unless you run the program a second time. 

Other Examples of Vigilante Malware

This anti-piracy malware isn't the first example of a malware that was created for an arguably good cause. 

According to an article by Gizmodo, a vigilante malware was created to replace the malware payloads of the Emotet botnet with GIFs and memes. The Emotet botnet is particularly vicious malware that spreads ransomware and banking trojans.

Another example surfaced In 2015 when a vigilante malware infected 10,000 home routers to boost their security and patch vulnerabilities.

Read Also: FBI and Have I Been Pwned Team Up to Show Which of Your Logins Have Been Compromised  

How to Keep Safe from Malware

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How to keep yourself and your devices protected from malware is pretty straightforward. There are numerous antivirus software available in the market that can be installed in devices. Avast, Norton, and Kaspersky are just three of the options that can be found. 

There are ways to keep your devices safe too without having to spend a single dollar. It's important to keep your computer and software updated, and to always be careful and wary of clicking doubtful links and downloading questionable content. 

And as far as this new vigilante malware is concerned, you could always opt to say no to piracy and stream and buy content legally.

Related Article: Enhance Your Mobile Security With the Top 5 Best Android Antivirus Apps

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Written by Isabella James

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