What is Riskware?

Riskware is not malware per se, but mostly normal software (e.g. a Application software / app) that fulfills a specific function desired by the user. However, there is a risk that the main or an ancillary function will be misused by criminal subjects. For example, if a specific control program allows remote access to the system from another computer, this can be exploited under certain circumstances. The name Riskware is composed of the English word for risk, viz Risk, and the word Software together. In this guide I will answer some questions about Riskware.

What is riskware, which apps are risky, how do I recognize them and how can I remove riskware? There are answers to these and other questions here. This is how you protect yourself from potential malware on Mac and PC.

What is riskware, which apps are risky, how do I recognize them and how can I remove riskware? There are answers to these and other questions here. This is how you protect yourself from potential malware on Mac and PC.

How does Riskware work?

Apps that can be exploited for criminal activities usually work the way the developer or company describes them. They can be programs for remote system access, but also downloaders or other apps that connect to computers or servers. Updates for programs or operating systems can also be used for unforeseen access through certain changes or adjustments. It is therefore important to understand that riskware is not intended to be malicious software, but is only made into malware through access that is useful for this purpose.

Which software can be described as riskware?

  • Programs for remote access: If access is not sufficiently secured (by codes to be entered on both sides or similar) or there are security gaps to access without the knowledge of the user, this can be exploited.
  • Downloaders: Software downloaders from download platforms and other weird sources can have security vulnerabilities, as well as themselves Trojan horses or other malware. So you should better keep your hands off it.
  • App or system updates: Updates, upgrades, patches and fixes for software are actually intended to fix errors and eliminate vulnerabilities. However, a new software version can also introduce new security vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Actually, every system and every app is a kind of riskware.

Counselor: Why you shouldn't download software from download portals

What danger does riskware pose on the Mac or PC?

What can hackers or criminals do with some software knowledge thanks to Riskware? Well, that depends entirely on the features of the exploited software. If, for example, a program is used for remote access and this can be run more or less unnoticed, the people behind it have full access to the entire computer. Data can be read, files stolen and/or deleted and other malware installed. So can also spyware and stalkerware get to the computer. The same applies to Trojans in downloaders.

How does riskware get on my computer?

If you buy a Mac or PC with a pre-installed operating system (macOS, Windows, Linux, etc.), then that is essentially riskware. Any app with a major vulnerability that can be exploited to communicate with other computers or servers becomes riskware. Basically, you cannot protect yourself from risky computer code by omitting certain types of programs or downloads. But there are ways to make it harder for attackers to use potential vulnerabilities and backdoors.

How can I protect myself from the risks?

Anyone using a program for remote access (AnyDesk, TeamViewer, etc.) only uses it once to solve a specific problem or provide instructions, it can then simply be uninstalled. This immediately eliminates the risk of unwanted remote access. Of course, this is only really helpful if the program is only installed shortly before remote support. So this sequence would be ideal: download the app from a safe source, install it, use it, close it, uninstall it.

Of course, this cannot be applied to frequently used apps and operating systems. Here it is important to always install the latest updates. So it is in macOS under  -> System settings… -> Software update If you have an update ready, you should install it. Even if a program or the App Store shows an update, you should take advantage of it. Paid upgrades to the next full version can usually be excluded.

You can also protect yourself from possible risks by removing programs that you do not need all the time from the list of Login objects (macOS) or Autostart (Windows) removed. They are not automatically executed every time the system starts and are only used when you actively open them. 

A final tip would be to pay attention to the resource consumption of the computer and to any unusually high data exchange over the Internet. For monitoring CPU, GPU, RAM and their utilization as well as for an insight into the data exchange of apps you can use the Mac on the Activity indicator use; Task Manager on Windows. Clearer and nicer are under macOS, however iStat Menus, the CleanMyMac X Menu App and Micro Snitch or Little Snitch. If an app is particularly noticeable, you can uninstall it to prevent further damage.

How to remove riskware?

You have to switch operating systems if you want to remove them. So if you want to get rid of the security gaps of the current Windows, you have to switch to Linux or macOS. If macOS is not safe enough for you, use Windows or Linux - etc. With regard to apps or tools that you classify as too risky, the following applies: uninstall them.

Risky software summary

Riskware is not dangerous per se and does not belong to malware by definition. However, security gaps or insufficiently protected network functions give scammers and hackers the opportunity to exploit actually harmless software for their own purposes. Since riskware is not classic malware and cannot be recognized as such by malware scanners, you should be careful yourself. As a user, however, you don't have to panic, but you should watch out for certain signs or only run remote access software selectively and not use downloaders from dubious sources.

Sources: 1, 2


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