Malware is the general term covering all the different types of threats to your computer safety such as:
- Viruses l Worms
- Trojan horses l Ransomware l Scareware l Spyware
- Adware l Botnets l Phishing l Grayware
Viruses are self-replicating code that install copies of themselves into other programs or data files for boot sectors of storage devices. Viruses can often carry a “payload” which performs some undesirable function. These functions can include but are not limited to:
l Stealing drive space l Stealing CPU cycles l Accessing private information l Corrupting data l Digital defacement or vandalism l Spamming contact lists
A worm is a piece of standalone computer code that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers. It normally uses a computer network to spread itself, using security vulnerabilities on the target computer or network to propagate. Unlike a virus, it does not attach itself to an existing file. Even if there is no payload, worms consume resources such as bandwidth and storage space just through their act of replication.
A Trojan horse, or Trojan is malware that is defined by its delivery method. Through the use of social engineering, or some other method, the code is installed on a system by a valid user of the system and like the original Trojan horse there is something more than advertised within the software. Trojans, unlike worms or viruses are generally non-self-replicating. The most common payload of a Trojan is the setting up of a “backdoor” control mechanism to the system that it is installed on.
Ransomware is a type of malware that, as the name implies, hold the system ransom until payment of some kind is made. It does this by restricting access to the legitimate owner of the system either by encrypting files or locking the system. Usually, a message of some kind is displayed with the demands. Upon payment a utility or key is sent to the user to unlock the system.
Scareware comes in two main flavours; the first tries to convince the user that his computer is infected with some non-existent malware, scaring the user into purchasing the author’s virus removal utility. The utility is nonfunctional or some additional form of malware.
The second form tries to convince the user that the computer has been or is being used for an illegal act, such as being part of a botnet or storing child pornography. Again, the objective is to scare the user into paying to cure something that is not really there.
Spyware is used by its authors to collect information about the user and its computer without the user’s knowledge. The end result can be as benign as being better able to target ads, to as criminal as key loggers designed to record account ids and passwords of bank accounts and forward them off to the authors.
Adware is not malware per se. It is merely any software that produces advertisements in order to generate revenue for its author. While a lot of people find this inconvenient or irritating, it is not malware. As such, it is not blocked by the antivirus software for being malware.
Software that has adware built into it will be blocked if it has malware in it.
A botnet is a network of Internet connected computers that have been covertly usurped to forward transmissions to other computers on the Internet on behalf of a “master”. These transmissions can be minimally damaging, such as spam, or they can critically impact a target as when used to launch a Distributed Denial of Service attack.
Any such computer is referred to as a zombie – in effect, a computer “robot” or “bot” that serves the wishes of some master spam or virus originator. Most computers compromised in this way are home-based.
According to a report from Russian-based Kaspersky Labs, botnets — not spam, viruses, or worms — currently pose the biggest threat to the Internet. A report from Symantec came to a similar conclusion.
See also: Botnet protection.
Phishing is a social engineering technique that is used to obtain sensitive and confidential information by masquerading as a communication from a trusted entity such as a well-known institution, company, or website. Usually, the malware is not in the communication itself but in the links within the communication.
Grayware programs are unsolicited software programs installed on computers, often without the user’s consent or knowledge. Grayware programs are generally considered an annoyance, but they can also cause system performance problems or be used for malicious purposes.
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