What are Viruses, Spyware and Malware?
The security of a computer can compromised in so many different ways, and this is why it is so important to take measures to protect yourself. Basic antivirus software can keep you safe against some types of attack, but there are also other dangers to consider. The terminology used to describe the various threats can be a bit confusing so here is an explanation of what is meant by malware, viruses, and spyware. It is a good idea to have a basic knowledge of these threats because it empowers you to make informed choices in regards to your computer security.
Malware refers to all types of malicious software. These are programs (or pieces of code) that have been designed to interfere with the normal operations of a computer. The motive for doing this can be just mischief-making, but it is often an attempt by criminals to steal information or hijack a computer. There are many different types of malware and it includes viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, ransomware, computer worms, and adware.
The Threat of Viruses
A computer virus is a kind of malware that gains access to your computer by replicating itself and infecting programs and files. It does this without your permission, and it can cause a great deal of damage before you notice it is there. Once this malicious code is inside of your machine, it can get up to all types of nastiness including wiping your hard drive, stealing your data, or taking over your email so it can infect other computers.
In order for a virus to gain access to your computer, it need a point of entry. If you bought a computer but never went online, downloaded files, or attached an external device, you wouldn’t have to worry about it becoming infected by a virus. The most usual way a virus gets on your machine is because you have opened an email attachment (usually from a stranger), or you have downloaded something from the internet. So long as you have adequate protection, you should be able to avoid this type of infection. New viruses are being created all the time, and this is why it is vital that you have a quality antivirus program that receives regular updates.
Ransomware is a particularly nasty type of virus, and a popular way for criminals to extort money from you. This malware basically takes over control of your machine, and you have to pay money to have it removed. One way this can happen is you are tricked into downloading a free virus-checker, but this dodgy software actually infects your machine. You then get a report saying that you need to buy the company’s premium antivirus product in order to remove these viruses. It’s a nasty trick but lots of people fall for it, so the criminals continue to use it.
Spyware is Annoying and Potentially Dangerous
Not all spyware is dangerous. If you visit a popular website, you are probably going to have some cookies installed in your browser. This means that when you revisit the website, you can be identified right away, and this can lead to a more user-friendly experience – for example, you may be provided with content based on the type of stuff you liked in the past. E-commerce websites like Amazon also like to track what you are up to, so you can be provided with relevant suggestions.
Advertisers are willing to pay a lot of money for information about the preferences and buying habits of potential customers. Spyware is a way for them to track you online. The fact that you haven’t provided your consent to this means that this type of spyware is considered malware – it is also an invasion of your privacy. This type of tracking program is also often associated with annoying pop-up ads that can remove some of the enjoyment of being online.
Keylogger software is the most dangerous type of spyware of all. It can record the letters you press on your keyboard, and this means it can steal you passwords and other important information. Keyloggers can give criminals access to your online banking account, and it can be used to facilitate identity theft.