Everything Guru Needs to Know About Malware

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Malicious software is referred to as ‘malware’, which covers a wide range of various malicious acts. The synonym to ‘malware’ is ‘virus,’ and many people tend to confuse the two. Viruses, in fact, are malicious programs that infect your computer and replicate themselves, which makes them a type of malware.

Furthermore, the term ‘malware’ is also sometimes misused, for example when referring to commercial software that many users usually reject in fear of security threats. Advertising programs, though tend to get on one’s nerves, are not malicious. On the other hand, they can and do get installed without the user’s permission.

Commercial keyloggers, designed to let parents have control over their children’s online time, can also be used as spyware. So it’s things like this that cause confusion and bring up questions regarding the appropriate classifications and term definitions.

Is it malware?

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It depends on how you perceive it. You may start having issues like unending pop-ups or similar small annoyances. To access the threat, you can install (and should have this anyway) an anti-virus program that has different protection tools.

‘Malware’ can refer to three types of software. First, it is a program used for malicious and illegal activities. Secondly, it is software used for commercial activity that is misrepresented or installed without your knowledge or consent. And lastly, it can be a program designed for a legitimate reason, but used for illegal activities.

The first definition is the core of what malware is, with the other two specifying the additional danger that legitimate software might represent. Malware itself can be graded based on potential threat levels. Let’s discuss some of the malware types below.

Adware

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Adware can be malicious or non-malicious commercial software that has been designed to display ads and other promotional materials. These types of programs are defined as ‘PUP,’ which means ‘potentially unwanted program’. Adware programs are usually deceptively installed. They are capable of invading your privacy and collecting personal information from your browser history, which is then shared amongst marketers and used in illegal ways of advertising.

Hijackware

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This is a commercial program that can be either malicious or non-malicious. It alters your web settings to redirect default web searches, new tabs, and homepage to commercial websites. Hijackers are deceptively installed and can employ various tricks to prevent you from uninstalling them.

Ransomware

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Then, there is the ransomware. It is designed to extort money and is distributed with the help of cyber criminals. It is also referred to as ‘scareware’ since they exploit one’s common fears. Ransomware will usually block the victim’s access to their own computer controls, displaying a false message that makes the victim feel they have violated the law somehow. It is disguised to appear from the Interpol, FBI, or the local police department and requests a fine to be paid for some unknown violation. Of course, the only ones receiving the money are the cyber criminals. However, the removal of this malicious program can be tricky, being obstructed by the use of rootkits.

Rogueware

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Here is another malware type that was designed to extort money. Sometimes also classified as scareware, these are usually disguised as anti-virus software. It rings false security alerts in order to put a scare into the computer user and trick them into buying other supposedly licensed software. Other kinds of rogueware tend to be misrepresented programs and programs that do not perform as claimed.

Rootkit

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This type of malware can gain access to your computer systems roots and usually appears as Windows system service. It starts up before other services and your security software so that criminals can take control of your system, with no way for your defences to stop them. Rootkits can block your Safe Mode and other means of access to the infected computer. The removal process will take special tools in order for you to be able to boot your computer without starting the rootkit.

Spyware

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Here is yet another malicious program – software used for commercial surveillance and gathering of sensitive information found on your computer. This could endanger your security and your privacy.

Keyloggers

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This one is both malicious and commercial and is most commonly used to spread threats to someone’s security. Keyloggers can capture key strokes when you type, voice conversations, and screens. Cyber criminals then use this to get your banking information and your passwords. It is very difficult to remove this type of malware as it is usually protected from being detected.

Trojan

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Malware designed to get through anti-virus defences unnoticed is called a trojan. Once through, it would usually go about installing other malicious software on your computer. Manufacturers work hard to detect trojans, but the danger remains ever-present.

Virus

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This is the type of malware that replicates itself. It isn’t always distributed to destroy your system but could follow other malicious purposes, like helping cyber criminals run their activities. It is the most dangerous infection for your computer to get, especially if it were to damage the system root directories. It can even damage all infected computers at the same time worldwide. It is very difficult to detect or remove unless you have specific software designed to protect computer at the root level.

Worm

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Malware that uses networks to spread and enable various malicious activities. Commonly used to disclose email addresses, it then can forward itself to other computers. Of course, the most dangerous worms do not have to use emails and can spread quickly by infecting entire networks. Employed by cyber criminals for blackmailing and DDoS attacks, worms also help in spreading hoaxes, spam, and links to various websites. If you should click any of the links, your computer automatically gets infected.

Summary

‘Malware’ is the term that defines both malicious programs and legitimate software that might pose a threat to your system. There are many different types of malware that cyber criminals have designed. It is important to understand the basics of each and how to protect your computer from being infected. This can be done by installing anti-virus and anti-malware software as these will protect your computer from different malicious and dangerous programs. And knowing how to be safe when browsing the net is just as important.

[Featured image credit: enzozo / Shutterstock]

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