What Is Malware?
Malware is the short term for malicious software and it refers to any malicious program, software or code that aims to harm a computer or device.
The goal of a malware attack varies on the type of malware that’s being used. Attacks can be used to infect your computer with malware until it crashes, to delete the files on your computer, or even to steal your private information and get access to your bank account.
Malware attacks can be either active or passive. Active attacks interfere with the normal functioning of a system, while passive attacks silently draw (steal) information from a system.
While a malware attack can come from the interior of a computers’ system (an employee in a company), the most common types of computer malware attacks (and most dangerous) come from external sources. They can be initiated by amateurs, hackers groups, or even hostile governments.
Different types of malware
Malware exists in many forms, and each of them acts differently on the victim’s computer. The following are the most common types of malware.
- Viruses – Viruses are a type of malware that attaches themselves to executable files or pieces of software and once they are in a computer, they start reproducing, aiming to infect as many files as possible.
- Worms – Worms are similar to viruses, the difference being that worms are not attached to files but they are standalone pieces of software.
- Bots – While bots are not always dangerous, they are often used maliciously for malware attacks such as DoS attacks.
- Trojan Horses – Trojans are a type of malware that hide behind programs and are extremely dangerous because they are often used to install other types of malware such as keyloggers.
- Keyloggers – Keyloggers are a type of malware that runs in the background, allowing the attacker to see all the keystrokes you hit for finding out usernames, passwords, and even credit card credentials.
- Adware – Adware is a form of malware that will push unwanted advertisements within your browsers.
- Spyware – Spyware is a malicious software that collects information about your online behavior to either use it for adware or to sell it to third parties.
How does malware spread?
Hackers are continuously looking for new ways to get into their victims’ computers. Here are the most common ways malware can be spread.
- Email – This is a popular and easy way of spreading malware. Some emails can even infect your computer with malware only by opening the email.
- The internet itself – There are lots of links and websites that contain malware. Also, there are high risks of getting malware from downloadable software around the internet.
- Outdated software – Having outdated software (operating system, browsers, plug-ins) makes you vulnerable to malware attacks.
- Local Area Networks (LAN) – When more computers are connected over a private network, its enough for one computer to get infected and the malware will spread to all the others.
- Pop-ups – Malware can be hidden in the form of a genuine alert or message. The message often tells you your computer has been infected and once you click to remove the malware, you’ll actually be installing it.
- Storage media – It’s common for hackers to hide malware in media files. These are spread through USB drives or DVDs/CDs.
How to prevent Malware attacks?
- Antivirus or antimalware software
- Update and scan regularly
- Install a firewall
- Update your operating system
- Be mindful about your online surfing
- Don’t open suspicious emails
- Backup your data
- Use a VPN
It is always best to prevent malware attacks than having to remove malware from your computer. While some types of malware are easy to get rid off, some may ask for a complete computer reboot to eliminate.
Now that you know what malware is and how it spreads, you can strengthen your online security and prevent malware on your computer.