Malware stands for “malicious software,” and like its title, it poses a large threat both to a computer’s OS in addition to the data stored indoors.
Malware is typically disguised as benign files, applications, and links. Once downloaded and opened, they wreak havoc on the system by slowing performance, corrupting information, and even holding sensitive information hostage before a payout is obtained.
There are lots of sub-categories of malware such as viruses, trojans, spyware, and ransomware–but what they all have in common is that they have been designed specifically to get and damage your PC without your knowledge.
What are the various kinds of malware?
Malware is a general term that comes in several forms. You might have heard of many of these: viruses, Trojans, and ransomware. Here’s a quick breakdown of each one and what specific threats they pose:
- Virus: Viruses are covertly attached to downloadable documents and are designed to intrude on your PC once the document is opened. Opening a file with a virus may cause operational problems and corrupt or delete your files.
- Trojan: Unlike viruses, which can be connected to documents, trojan viruses are connected to applications programs disguised as being useful and valuable. Downloading a trojan virus can corrupt your data and influence the operation of your system.
- Ransomware: A more severe form of malware than a virus, ransomware encrypts your information and basically “holds it hostage.” The user is prevented access to their information until they cover the attacker.
- Spyware: As its title suggests, spyware is a sort of malware that knowingly spies to the user from within the computer. Once inside, spyware accounts back to the attacker with information that may include your passwords and credit card numbers.
How do I protect myself against malware?
There are several preventative and actionable strategies to secure your computer against malware. These vary from common-sense practices to preventative malware security.
- Do not download suspicious files or attachments
- Use an adblocker
- Be careful of clicking through websites that look suspicious or unprofessional
- Invest in antivirus software from a reputable firm such as Norton or McAfee