Malware is a term given to a wide range of software programs, designed to cause havoc to your IT system. Malware can be annoying, by slowing down your computer system, to downright destructive, where the Malware deletes information or steals important details. Some Malware is created by programmers who are simply seeking to cause a bit of chaos in the world, whereas others are created by cybercriminals who are looking to profit off you, via stealing or ransom.

In order to protect yourself and your computer network from malware, it is important to have a brief understanding of the different types of Malware and how these operate.

What is a Computer Virus

The term computer virus is sometimes used interchangeably to describe Malware, but it is actually a type of Malware. A virus attempts to load onto a computer, without the user’s knowledge.  Once in a computer system a virus aims to insert itself into other program code and then replicate itself on the host computer. It then attempts to transmit itself to another computer, either through a network, email or sharing of a file.

Because of the replicative nature of a virus, it can cause havoc to computer resources and cause a computer and its associated network to run slowly, due to resources (i.e. RAM) being swamped with multiple instances of the virus.

What is a Worm

Like a virus, worms aim to replicate and spread themselves through a computer network. However, unlike a virus, a worm does not need to insert itself into another program’s code and can exist freely. This means that programs are not going to be corrupted, but computer systems have the potential to be. IT systems can be dramatically impacted, especially if the worm is working through an unprotected network. This will cause the consumption of bandwidth, at the expense of other important data transfer.

What is a Trojan Horse Program

A Trojan horse program, named after the Greek Trojan Horse mythology, tricks users to installing it onto their computer. This usually occurs through a download or an email attachment or a free software program falsely representing itself, such as a countdown timer for your desktop.

Trojans are dangerous because they aim to exploit back-door access to your IT. This may be to capture information, such as keystrokes or passwords, or allow hackers to install more malware on the infected computer. Trojans can also assist hackers in stealing important or confidential information, as well as extorting victims for cash.

Other Types of Malware

These are just a few of the Malware programs around. There are many others, including Bots, Ransomware, Adware and Spyware. Much like the above, the purpose of these programs, generally, is to infiltrate your computer and obtain information or access.

Protecting against Malware

Malware can cause a variety of problems for users. Malware causes billions of dollars of damage every year across the globe, so it is important for business and home users to be vigilant. There are a number of things that can be done to reduce the chance of being a victim of Malware.

Anti-Malware Software

Anti-Malware software is one way to reduce the chances of being infected. Anti-Malware software aims to intercept Malware before it is installed onto your computer or identify it should the software infect your computer.

Updates

Many successful Malware attacks occur through the exploitation of bugs in a program’s code. Windows is commonly attacked as it is used by many users globally and, due to its complex nature, vulnerabilities can be identified by hackers. However, while some may aim to exploit these weaknesses, others identify these weaknesses and produce ‘Patches’ or updates, to counter the effectiveness of a Malware attack.

At the same time, it is important to ensure you update you Anti-Malware software on a regular basis, as new threats come online constantly; these Anti-Malware updates include instructions for identifying and removing Malware.

Social Engineering

The best written security code can usually be over-written by a user who unwittingly installs a piece of Malware. Opening email attachments from unknown users or installing/downloading programs and files from the internet have historically been the reason for the dramatic spread of Malware. The ILOVEYOU virus sent victims an email, with a Note from a ‘Secret Admirer’. When this was opened the malware infected the computer and thus spread its way around the globe.

The simple tip here is not to open emails from unknown sources or senders; if it looks suspicious, there’s a chance it is a piece of Malware waiting to steal your data.

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