Malware (a portmanteau of the words “malicious” and “software”) is blanket word for any sort of software that disrupts the normal functions of your computer, steals your personal information, and/or leaves you vulnerable to other, external operations of a malevolent nature. But what is it exactly? Malware is a bit of a loaded term since it is actually a group of several related types of software:
- Adware: any type of software that appears to offer coupons, deals, or gratuities to the user. This is one of the most populous forms of malware and infects hundreds of thousands of computers a year.
- Backdoors: any type of software that opens a system to external attacks or users. This form of malware can blur into other types since getting into a user’s system is the end goal of most malware.
- Browser Hijacker: any software that infects a user’s internet browser and alters his internet traffic requests. The FBI ran an active cyberwarfare campaign against a DNS change that had infected millions of computers by 2012 and had almost USD $14 million worth of profits.
- Bots/Botnets: any software that automatically perform a specific action or actions. Before it was shut down, the Bredolab botnet was estimated to have infected over 30 million computers and was one of the most prolific of its kind to date.
- Ransomware: any software that locks a user out of his system and then requires that they pay in order to get back in. The name comes from the fact that the user’s computer is “held hostage” until a “ransom” can be paid.
- Rogue Security Software: any software that tricks the user into thinking their machine is compromised or infected in some way. Some types actually encrypt the infected system’s hard drive making recovery near-impossible via external methods.
- Rootkit: any type of software that is difficult to detect and remove since it operates on the same “level” as the computer’s operating system.
- Spyware: any type of software that spies on you by tracking your internet search history, capturing passwords/logins, or logging your keystrokes (also called a “keylogger”). Some forms of spyware tie into adware to tailor themselves to a given user’s habits. Particularly nefarious types may take over a user’s webcam and/or microphone.
- Trojan Horses: any type of software that appears to be useful or interesting in some way to get a user to install it. Once installed, it typically unleashes some other malware or performs some other action (e.g., installs user access to an external operator).
- Viruses: any type of software that replicates itself by attaching code to other programs or data.
- Worms: any type of software that destroys data on a computer’s hard drive by “eating” it. One of the earliest forms of malware was a virus.
Being able to protect your system from these sorts of attacks almost always require good sense, knowledgeability, and a powerful antivirus software such as Stopzilla Antivirus.