Malware - Defined, Discussed, and Dissected

Malware is quite a large term, encompassing most internet threats such as viruses, worms, Trojan horses, adware, and spyware

Before delving deeper into the topic of malware, you should be aware that malware differs from there types of online internet threats as it is actually an abbreviation for "malicious software". In the United States, some legal codes define malware as a "computer contaminant", or something which infects your desktop or browsing device. By understanding malware is software, which means it must be downloaded or actively added to your computer, browser, or downloaded from a USB stick, you can take the first step to personal, vigilant protection.

A breakdown: the non-virus types of malware.

Adware

The most common type of malware is adware, which can be from legitimate companies (for marketing or data mining purposes) or sole perpetrators (for thievery). Adware is designed in order to force advertisements upon you while using your computer. These can be either benign or harmful. Adware can also not just force advertisements and slow down your computer experience, it can also place hidden trackers, cookies, or retargeting pixels on your browser. By doing so, the owners of said adware can track your movements online and provide even more advertisements based on your browsing history. Adware may sound innocent enough, and can be sometimes helpful to tailor your online experience to yourself. However, the more ads appearing on your computer, the slower your computer will run as disk space is taken up and the more likely your data will be mined. Adware can also contain hidden spyware, which we will cover next.

Spyware

Spyware is pretty self-explanatory via the name, but anyways, it is a malicious computer software which scans your computer’s hard-drive and browser history for personal information and internet habits. Essentially, yes, spying on you. Spyware can uncover a lot of information from your computer, including email passwords and usernames, logins for social media, your age, or gender, as well as sensitive financial information. The worst of spyware can actually alter your computer settings as well, decreasing your computer’s efficiency.

The Trojan horse

Last but certainly not least, there is the Trojan horse of malware. And yes, its name comes from the story of the Trojan Horse - why? Because it acts in the same way as the story. A Trojan horse appears as a program which has useful features. The trick? It doesn’t - it actually contains pieces of damaging code which can give the malware the ability to rewrite code or alter code within your computer. A Trojan horse differs from a virus or a worm as it does not replicate itself; however, many worms or viruses use the tactics of a Trojan horse to initially infect a system.

A breakdown: the virus side of malware

Virus

A virus is another form of malware, which like spyware, once again finds its meaning in its name. A virus is similar to a medical virus, i.e., it infects your system, taking up disk space, altering code, ad deleting or corrupting files within your computer. Viruses are usually hidden quite well in the forms of emails, attachments, shared files, images, or games. A virus can be tricky to get rid of without the help of a legitimate security system as they can secretly affect your hard-drive, all while appearing as a legitimate application.

Worms

A worm acts in a similar way as a virus in the sense that it replicates itself within an infected system. However, a worm goes one step beyond a virus (not in lethality, but in capability of spreading) by duplicating itself over and over again. Once again, filling up your memory space or overloading your computer’s processing speed to slow down your system entirely. The worst part about worms is that they are self-sustaining, meaning the creator or owner of the malware does not spread the worm. Instead, the worm spreads itself by infecting your messaging systems, web browser, emails, or social media and sustains its own duplication and diffusion rates across the internet.

Is there any prevention for malware? Of course there is.

In order to protect yourself from these dangerous, hidden threats, you must be aware of when and how they infect your system. So, take precaution when opening strange emails, spam, sketchy websites, downloads, etc. this is the first step to protection. The second step is to have an anti-virus, secure-email product, or for adware in specifics, an ad blocker. Luckily, we provide two of these products, so why not give our Secure Email or ZenMate Web FireWall a try if your heart so desires. If not, no worries, and please, continue to research. Knowledge is power, so empower yourself and keep your identity yours while exploring the internet.

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