Malware is portmanteau of malicious and software. It is a general term that refers to a broad type of software created with malicious intent. There are several types of malware that basically attempt to infiltrate a computer or computer network without informed consent, with effects varying from simply being annoying to intrusive, hostile, and damaging effects.
Types of Malware
As previously stated, malware is a general term used and has several types. These types of malware have some similarities and differences. Examples of these types are:
- Trojans, rootkits, backdoors
- Abusive adware
- Botnets, keyloggers, and dialers.
Viruses are probably the most common type of malware. If you have been using computers for quite some time now, you probably have experienced getting infected with at least one. Computer viruses, just like biological ones seize attach themselves to files or the system itself once they are executed or run and proceeds to replicated itself while releasing its payload.
The payload of a virus is what the programmer instructed it to do. It can be anything from simply changing the files or system to completely crashing your computer. Though the first computer virus was not made for the DOS/Windows platform, today, majority of viruses are aimed against Windows systems.
Spyware, one of the recent types of malware a very serious security risk. Just as its name says, this type of malware is capable of monitoring the things you do on your computer. It can also be programmed to seize partial to full control of a compromised computer. Its spying nature basically aims to steal personal information like surfing habits, user names and passwords, banking details, and credit card numbers.
Trojans, rootkits, and backdoors differ from viruses because they usually do not infect. These malware reside in computer systems and create a backdoor to enable a remote user to gain unauthorized access. In order to mask their presence, most will attempt to disable security software (antivirus, antispyware, and firewall) and other programs that may be used to detect it.
Worms are quite similar to viruses but usually don’t have payloads. They simply annoy the user and spread uncontrollably to the user’s files and even are capable of infecting other computers in a network (LAN, Internet).
Adware is a type of software that is free to use, but has advertisements to cover for expenses during its development. However, some developers make these adware programs “spy” on users that install the program to attempt to get information to deliver targetted advertisements.
Botnets, keyloggers, and dialers are more specific types of malware. Botnets are usually used as payloads by viruses or trojans to make computers a part of a large network of drones that is often used to attack other computers or websites using DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attacks. Keyloggers are malware installed in computers to monitor keystrokes and other activities and later send them to the cyber criminal for fraudulent use.
Dialers are not that widespread today. These malware were more widely used when dial-up modems were still the most common way to connect to the Internet. These malware seized control of the user’s modem to call a premium number for Internet access, then later bill the unsuspecting user for the use of the “service”.
Sources of Malware
Today, the main source of malware comes from the Internet. It basically spreads through websites (downloading, surfing), instant messaging, and email.
Malware that spreads through websites usually happen when the browser is unsecure, thus allowing drive-by downloads and spyware to make it into the computer. Since malware needs to be executed to be able to infect computers, these malware exploit the browser or even the user into allowing it to be run.
Viruses that spread through instant messaging are usually sent as file transfers, where the file pretends to be a valid file from a friend. The same thing goes with email, through email attachments. Malware may also spread through storage devices like diskettes and flash drives. However, it is not that common anymore.
Risks of Malware
There are so many possible things that may happen once infected by these various types of malware. Among those are:
- Crash your computer
- Delete files
- Steal sensitive files or personal information (passwords, banking details, credit card numbers)
- Be part of a botnet
Getting Rid of Malware
The best way to get rid of malware is to prevent it from getting into your computer. That is why it is very important to have security software such as antivirus, antispyware and firewall software.
With these three, you can be assured that malware will not make it into your computer, or at least, such threats are minimized. As long as the right software is used and you make sure it can connect to the Internet to receive updates, you don’t have to worry much about malware.
However, if your computer is already infected with malware, depending on the circumstance, you may need to reinstall your OS, reformat your hard drive, or simply clean your computer using anti-spyware or antivirus software.
If you still don’t have security software, it is about time have them installed in your computer. If you don’t have the dough to buy commercial software, there are a lot of software that you can use for free.
For antivirus software, you have AVG Free Edition, Avast! Antivirus, and Avira. For firewall software, there’s Comodo Firewall Pro, ZoneAlarm Firewall, Ashampoo Firewall or PC Tools Firewall. There are also a lot of choices for anti-spyware; you have SpyBot Search and Destroy, Ad-Aware, or Bazooka Antispyware.
Remember that there is no perfect security software. Even though you have the best software installed and running in your computer, there is no guarantee that your computer will not get infected with malware.
Prevention is really the key here. You won’t need to get rid of malware if you don’t have it in your computer. Having security software is just part of prevention. By safely and carefully using the Internet, you also significantly reduce the chances of infection. Only download software from reputable websites and refrain from opening email attachments from unknown senders.
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