Most computer users have very likely come across the terms “malware” and “virus.” In fact, many computer users may have had firsthand experience with one or both of these ill-natured computer programs. And while the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference. So, what is malware vs virus – how are they similar and what makes them different? In this article, we’ll find out.
Malware is a shortened name that stands for “malicious software.” Malware is a comprehensive term for a wide range of malicious software programs. A virus, on the other hand, is simply a specific type of malware.
Malware and viruses are created by humans. The reasons why people create malware programs are as numerous as there are people. Some do it for fun. Some for name recognition in the computer programming world. For others, it might be a form of revenge. For some, it may have simply been an educational exercise gone awry – like Frankenstein’s monster. And for many, they create these programs with the ultimate goal of stealing information and/or money.
Because malware is an all-encompassing term, there is a wide range of malware that exists – including viruses. To make this range easier to understand we can break them down into the following categories:
Computer viruses mimic natural viruses in that they insert their own code into other computer files, programs, webpages, flash drives, or emails. Once attached to a host file or program, the virus is activated by a user opening the file or running the program. Once launched, a virus can spread to other files, programs, and computers. Viruses can be programmed to do all sorts of things that can range from but aren’t limited to, deleting files, modifying hard drives, and disabling systems.
Worms are different from viruses because they are a complete program that can copy itself from computer to computer. It doesn’t require a host program or file to be activated. Worms often take advantage of system or software security holes. Once established they can execute their program without the need for activation by a user.
Spyware is able to collect information and gather intelligence about the victim and their computer network. It can record what websites the user visits, the keystrokes they make, or find out information about the system they’re using.
Adware delivers advertisements to computers in the form of pop-up windows and other types of messages. Some adware is harmless while some will track user information or infect the system with other malware. Most adware is installed with user consent when agreeing to a website’s terms and conditions.
Ransomware is designed to lock the user out of their system or to encrypt certain data until a ransom is paid. A type of ransomware, known as scareware, can be used to scare the user into believing they need to buy antivirus software (which usually doesn’t work) to prevent further damage to their system.
Rootkits are programs that allow a third party to gain control of a user’s system. There are legitimate rootkit programs that allow IT workers to gain remote control of another computer in order to fix a problem, but rootkits can also be used for nefarious purposes. Malicious rootkits are typically invisible to the user and can run in the background without being detected.
Fileless malware is memory-based, not file-based like most malware. Fileless malware hides its code in the system’s memory or other trusted parts of the system. This makes malware relatively undetectable by antivirus software.
In today’s world, it is essential that business owners have proper cyber security protocols in place to help guard against viruses and malware. As it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest emerging cyber treats, having access to professional cyber security experts through partnering with a Managed Service Provider is an ideal solution. To find out how working with MBC can protect your business against viruses and malware, get a free assessment today.
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