Malware is short for malicious software, malware is a broad term that encompasses viruses, trojans, worms, rootkits, key loggers, spyware, adware and ransomware and more as there are many malware types. Each type of malware poses its own problems for example spyware can gather data and record what you are doing on your computer, whereas viruses can get inside your computer deleting files or directory information off your hard drive. Ultimately malware is used to infect computers, the aim being to cause disruption and damage at the very least and can be very tricky to remove. See our post on our top 4 malware removal tools.
According to PandaLabs, Panda Security’s anti-malware laboratory, between January and March 2016 they identified a staggering 227,000 new malware threats on a daily basis. Of all the malware types Trojans still remain the most common threat, followed by viruses, then worms, then potentially unwanted programs (PUP), followed by adware and spyware. An incredible 33% of computers worldwide are infected, although the good news was this is a slight decrease from the previous year.
Origins of Malware
Malware used to be confined to the work of teenagers playing pranks, however malware has taken a much more sinister turn and has become a favored tool designed and used by professional criminals. Malware can be used to gain access to things such as personal information, PIN numbers, business information or to steal money from accounts, extort money or even to prevent owners from being able to access their own computer. You can unwittingly allow malware into your computer through hacked websites, opening dodgy links / attachments in emails, downloading music files … the list goes on… pretty much anything you can download from the web!
Common Malware Types
Confused and wondering what all these mysterious terms mean? What the difference is between a Trojan and ransomware? Thought a worm was a creature in your garden? We’ve tried to explain what each term refers to and how they can affect you if your computer becomes infected. If your computer is infected or you think it may be infected take a look at our Recommended Malware Removal Tools post to help you clean it up.
What is a Virus
We have all either had a computer virus or know of someone who has had a computer virus at least once . A virus is probably the most well known of all the malware types. A virus is a program that can enter your computer, attach itself to files and programs, spreading easily and quickly by duplicating itself. It can corrupt your system, modifying and even destroying and deleting data.
Effects – A virus will more often than not slow your computer down. However it can be quite dangerous as it can change, delete and even copy files and data.
What is a Key Logger
A key logger, or key stroke logger, is a program that secretly monitors and records every key pressed on your keyboard. Its primary intention is to collect private data, such as credit card numbers, passwords and usernames.
Effect -As key loggers record personal data cyber criminals use this information to steal money from accounts, steal identities and sometimes to extort information and money.
What is a Worm
A worm is a program that replicates itself to spread and infect other computers. A worm will exploit security vulnerabilities to gain access and continue to spread through computer networks.
Effects – At the very least a worm can take up some of your bandwidth. More commonly and more alarmingly worms can control computers, steal user information and turn your computer into a remote controlled ‘zombie’ or ‘bot’.
What is Spyware
Spyware is a program that secretly records data about which sites you’ve visited and collects other information without asking the users consent. It’s most commonly used to collect private information, for example internet activity, passwords, key strokes, usernames.
Effects – At the very least spyware can change a computers settings and lower the connection speeds. More often though spyware is used by fraudsters to steal confidential details such as passwords, credit card details all for financial gain.
What is Adware
Adware also known as ad supported software or advertising software is a program that displays unwanted adverts. These can be in the form of pop ups or uncloseable windows.
Effects – Constant pop ups can interrupt you when using the internet which undoubtedly can get very annoying. Adware will also slow your computers performance down. At worst adware will keep track of what you’ve been doing online and display adverts where it wouldn’t normally be possible to.
What is Ransomware
Of all the malware types ransomware is the fastest growing form of malware. It is a program designed to essentially block access to a computer system until a sum of money, a ‘ransom’, is paid. One of the more famous pieces of ransomware that made the news and you may have heard of was CryptoLocker
Effects – You are totally locked out of your computer, your files and data are essentially held to ransom. The aim of ransomware is to blackmail and extort money from the user in return for a code or decryption key to unlock your computer.
What is a Rootkit
A rootkit is an exceptionally dangerous group of programs that can disguise itself to bypass computer security systems, in order to gain admin level control of a computer or network. Rootkits are very difficult to remove, the most common way for them to enter a system is through a suspicious email attachment or an infected downloadable plugin.
Effects- A rootkits main goal is to steal money through stealing personal information such passwords for bank accounts, credit card numbers.
N.B. It is worth noting that some rootkits are not malicious and are sometimes installed as part of a legitimate application. If you’re ever in doubt you can always check if they are listed on the ‘Detection of known legitimate rootkits’ .
What is a Trojan
A trojan is a program disguised as something harmless and safe but in actual fact exposes your system to more harm, sometimes downloading and installing other malware.
Effects – A Trojan can cause your computer or network to be slower, it can also delete, block, alter and copy data at the very least. On the other hand Trojans can steal personal information like bank account details, usernames and passwords which in turn can lead to identity theft and fraud.