All too often I hear people say, “I think I just have a lot of viruses on my computer.” Most people really don’t know what a virus is, or what the symptoms even are. In actuality, there are many types of “baddies” floating all around on the Internet just waiting to attack your computer. Malware is short for the term “malicious software.” Malware is a broad term to encompass everything that is out to cause damage to your computer.
Real computer viruses are pieces of software that are out to cause damage to your files. The term is all too often used interchangeably with malware even though the two are not the same. Viruses are malware, but malware is not always a virus (A rectangle is a square, but a square is not a rectangle). A virus is just made to wreak havoc as much as it can. It will infect a Master Boot Record, delete files and folders, corrupt data, wipe portions of hard drives, etc.
Spyware is another term that is used in place of malware regularly. Spyware is any piece of software that steals information. Any type of information is game for these programs: credit card information, passwords, social security numbers, etc. Spyware is usually trying to steal information for monetary gain. They get the data, and then sell it for a profit. Because of this, the program usually runs without you knowing it. Spyware usually will not slow a computer down or cause data corruption/deletion because then you will get suspicious. Instead it just sits in the corner and watches everything you type, search, download, install, etc.
There is also scareware, which is what I see quite frequently. Scareware comes in many shapes and sizes, but the one people most likely know it as is a fake anti-virus program. The user most likely will do a “Google search” for something along the lines of “free anti-virus” and download the first one that shows up. The fake anti-virus will say that the computer has an absurd amount of viruses, malware, and errors and hold the computer ransom. Usually the anti-virus will not allow the opening of an internet browser, other anti-virus, or other programs because of “potential security risks.” Instead it asks you to pay for the full version of the program to remove the malware and the blocks.
Trojan horses are seemingly harmless files or programs that open a backdoor in the computer to allow more malware or to allow a hacker to gain remote access to your computer. Trojan horses do not replicate themselves, which separates them from viruses.
Lastly, there are worms. Worms infect throughout a network utilizing several security holes. It replicates usually without any user interaction. Therefore, often, the user is unaware that the worm is even present. Because they jump throughout a network using security holes, they can usually be prevented by using your firewall.
There are many types of malware. It’s rather easy to distinguish between them one you know the difference. Or, you could just bring your computer to us at Courika Solutions and let us figure out the difference for you.