Many people think that malware, viruses, Trojans and spyware are all the same thing, but they’re quite different. Knowing the differences can help you stay safe and protected online.
A combination of the words ‘malicious’ and ‘software’, malware is an umbrella term for any hostile program, script or code that can infect your computer or perform unwanted or unauthorised actions. The terms ‘malware’ and ‘virus’ are often used interchangeably.
Most terms used to describe malware fall into two different categories: delivery, or infection methods and actions.
Delivery or infection methods
A program that attaches itself to another process and then replicates itself throughout your system.
Typically a small program that runs unnoticed in the background of your system whilst replicating itself.
As its ancient Aegean namesake suggests, the Trojan is piece of malware that is hidden inside something seemingly unsuspicious. Unfortunately, they’re not as easy to spot as gigantic wooden horses.
This monitors your activities and sends the data it gathers to a third party. Some will simply monitor websites you visit; others can monitor mouse and keyboard actions to steal sensitive information. It’s good to run a spyware check every now and again to make sure you’re not infected.
If your system becomes infected with adware (as many are without their owner’s knowledge), you will be shown extra advertisements almost anywhere possible. If you see advertisements where they shouldn’t be, or advertisements that are accompanied by the message “ads not by this site”, your system may be infected. This YourLifeChoices article can help you remove adware.
Notifications and pop-ups informing you that your computer is at risk but can be saved if you pay for a virus-removal tool are often symptoms of a scareware infection. If you get pop-ups of this nature outside of your internet browser, run a complete malware check.
A relatively new type of threat, ransomware will give over control of your computer to a hacker who will then demand that you transfer money to them in return for giving back control to you. Should you refuse to cooperate, the hacker will delete everything from your computer, or do something even worse.
It’s wise to stay protected with up-to-date antivirus software.