For almost as long as we've had computers, we've also had malware, the collective term for many different types of software programs that can cause harm to your computer or steal your personal data. This kind of threat to your security is constantly evolving, with hackers using it to attack individuals and businesses all the time.
'Malware' is shorthand for 'malicious software' and it is normally defined as any software that is designed for malicious purposes, such as causing damage to a single computer or computer network.
Different types of malware
People often get confused about the various terms surrounding malware. In the past, we've seen people question what the difference is between a virus and malware. The answer is that there is no difference; rather, a virus is just one type of malware. So, we've highlighted some of the different types of malware you can get below.
Methods of entry into your computer
We'll start with the main categories of malware and the way in which they can infect your hardware. There are generally three distinct ways in which malware can attack your computer.
- A worm is a piece of malware that can self-reproduce in order to spread from one computer to another.
- A virus is not a standalone piece of software. It's just a segment of code that inserts itself into the existing code of another harmless application. Once inside, it can force that program to perform unsavoury actions, essentially hijacking an otherwise innocent software program.
- A trojan is a piece of malware that impersonates something genuine that a user would want to download or run on their computer. However, it's just malware wearing a mask. There's a reason that the software is named after the Greek trojan horse!
How your computer is attacked
Now that you know the three main ways in which a piece of malware might get onto your computer, we'll move onto what the pieces of software can actually do once they've got their hooks into your machine.
- Spyware is malware that is designed to do exactly what it says on the tin. This software spies on your use of the computer, as well as the data you're transmitting. It will normally try to capture that information and send it to the hacker who initiated it, for example using a keylogger, something that records all of your keystrokes.
- A rootkit is essentially a collection - or "kit" as the name suggests - of tools that hand remote access to a third party, so that they can control your computer system. When WiseGuys performs maintenance on customer machines, we often use remote access, but this type of software would give the same permissions to a hacker or cyber-criminal.
- Adware is often considered one of the lesser threats in the malware world, but is no less frustrating. This malware forces your internet browser to redirect from pages you're trying to visit, sending them instead to advertisements. What's more, these targeted adverts may open up the path to more malware onto your machine.
- Ransomware is something you may have heard about in the news within the past couple of years. This type of malware hijacks your computer's hard drive and files, encrypting them and placing them in an inaccessible state. The software demands payment to be made before the files are handed back over to you. Rather famously, the NHS was impacted by ransomware in May 2017, with trusts across the country affected due to aging hardware and out-of-date security software.
- Finally, cryptojacking is a fairly new type of method that hackers may use to exploit you and your computer processor. By utilising your computer's hardware, hackers can force your machine to mine for digital currencies, and it's often impossible to detect until your hardware is damaged through overuse.
Preventing malware in the first place
It's easy to become a potential victim, with spam and phishing emails flying through our online inboxes on a daily basis. These are the main routes that malware uses to enter your computer, so you should be sure to use an email program that has built-in security, as well as avoiding any attachments you don't recognise.
You should also ensure that all your computer hardware is kept up-to-date with the latest security patches. Windows, for example, provides regular security updates that you should never ignore when prompted. If you're not sure how to enable automatic updates, then you can get in touch with WiseGuys on 0808 123 2820.
We can also advise you on other measures to take, such as installing an anti-virus software program onto your computer so that you're better protected from threats whilst browsing online.