If you use a computer, smartphone, or tablet, you probably know that you need antivirus software to stay secure. You probably also hear terms like viruses, worms, spyware, Trojans, and ransomware a lot. Some of these terms can be confusing. Are they all the same thing? If not, what’s the difference between these terms? Well, in a nutshell, they’re all types of malware.
So, what is malware exactly and how is it different from computer viruses? Malware is a catchall term for any malicious software like a computer virus, adware, or ransomware. When people say viruses, they usually mean malware. The term virus has caught on because computer viruses were the earliest and most infamous malware threats. Think of it like how some people refer to Kleenex for all facial tissues when there are actually several different facial tissue brands.
Many people also use the terms antivirus and anti-malware interchangeably. Nowadays, whether you download antivirus or anti-malware tools, you’ll get some level of protection against different malware types.
Here is a summary of different kinds of malware:
- Computer viruses delete data and spread through corrupt files like email attachments after being activated by a victim.
- Computer worms can delete data, drop other malware, use up hard disk space, and self-propagate through systems and networks.
- Trojans can steal data, drop other malware, open backdoors, and spread through trickery by hiding under legitimate software.
- Spyware can use your machine’s microphone, webcam, or GPS to spy on you. Spyware can spread through malicious websites and downloads or more targeted attacks.
- Adware is a bothersome malware that throws up ads and may spy on your Internet activity for marketers. It usually spreads through shady websites and downloads.
- Rootkits are nasty pieces of malware that can quietly take over your system.
- Ransomware locks your computer and holds it hostage for a ransom.
Are Computer Viruses Still A Threat?
While computer viruses are still dangerous and can corrupt your data, they’re more of a legacy threat. Most infamous viruses have signatures known to antivirus programs. In addition, most computer users today are smart enough to avoid activating unknown files that may have viruses.
Why Are Hackers Making Fewer Viruses?
Viruses are just not a moneymaker for hackers. Although a virus can give you grief, it can’t help a hacker make money. On the other hand, a hacker can use ransomware to extort you for Bitcoin, adware to generate marketing revenue, a banker Trojan to steal your banking data, spyware to copy your login credentials, or a rootkit to infiltrate an organization.
How Do I Stop Malware Threats?
Identify and squash common threat vectors such as phishing attacks. Don’t go to websites or open emails you don’t trust. Patch your system regularly to stop hackers from taking advantage of exploits. And use intelligent anti-malware software that proactively stops cybersecurity threats.
Do Macs Get Malware?
It’s a bit of a myth that Macs don’t get viruses or other types of malware. Sure, Macs are more secure because of their restricted nature, but they traditionally attract less malware because of lower market penetration. However, according to the State of Malware report, Macs are now outpacing Windows per user in adware infections.
Will Malware Threats Ever End?
It’s unlikely that malware threats will end in the near future. On the contrary, we’ll see escalating malware threats like ransomware attacks as we become more reliant on machines. Setting up defensive measures is critical to keep ourselves safe in cyberspace.