Malware is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software. It is a shortened combination of the words malicious and software. It is a term for any sort of software designed with malicious intent.
That malicious intent is often theft of your private information or the creation of a back-door to your computer so someone can gain access to it without your permission. However, software that does anything that it did not tell you it was going to do could be considered malware.
There are different types of malware. Though some of them have names that can be used to describe software with a legitimate, non-malicious intent, malware is generally understood to exist in one or more of the following forms:
Virus: is a malware that, when executed, replicates by reproducing itself or infecting other programs by modifying them. Infecting computer programs can include as well, data files, or the boot sector of the hard drive.
Spyware: is software that aims to gather information about a person or organization without their knowledge and that may send such information to another entity without the consumer’s consent, or that asserts control over a computer without the consumer’s knowledge
Worm: Malware that can replicate itself across a network. It is a standalone malware computer program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers. Often, it uses a computer network to spread itself, relying on security failures on the target computer to access it. Unlike a computer virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program
Trojan horse: This looks, and may even operate, as a legitimate program. But it is used to hack into a computer by misleading users of its true intent. The term is derived from the Ancient Greek story of the wooden horse that was used to help Greek troops invade the city of Troy by stealth.
Browser hijacker: A browser hijacker is a type of malware that is designed to change your browser’s settings. You may experience any of the following behaviors: Your search is getting redirected to different websites. Your homepage or search engine is changed without your permission. Webpages load slowly
Rootkit: Software that gains administrative rights for malicious intent. A rootkit is a type of malicious software that is activated each time your system boots up. They are difficult to detect because they are activated before your system’s Operating System has completely booted up.
Adware is a form of software that downloads or displays unwanted ads when a user is online, collects marketing data and other information without the user’s knowledge or redirects search requests to certain advertising websites. Adware are sometimes considered malware, but usually only when those advertisements are designed to trick users in to downloading other, more malicious, software.
How Does a Malware Infection Happen?
Malware can infect a computer or other device in a number of ways. Often times, it usually happens by downloading software that is bundled with a malicious application.
Some malware can get on your computer by taking advantage of security vulnerabilities in your operating system and software programs.
Outdated versions of browsers, and often their add-ons or plug-ins as well, are easy targets.
Most of the time, however, malware is installed by users overlooking what they are doing and rushing through program installations that include malicious software. Many programs install malware-ridden toolbars, download assistants, system and Internet optimizers, bogus antivirus software, and other tools automatically, unless you explicitly tell them not to.
Another common source of malware is via software downloads that at first seem to be something safe like a simple image, video, or audio file, but in reality is a harmful executable file that installs the malicious program.
How Do You Protect Yourself From a Malware Infection?
Obviously, the smartest way to avoid malware is to take precautions to prevent the malware from infecting your computer or device in the first place.
The most important way to prevent malware from reaching your computer is by making sure you have an antivirus/antimalware program installed and that you have it configured to constantly look for signs of malicious activity in downloads and active files.
Beyond software that automatically keeps an eye out for malware, the most important thing you can do to protect your computer is to be careful with your downloads and clicks on the internet.
One way is to avoid opening email and other messaging attachments from people or organizations you don’t know or don’t trust. Even if you know the sender, make sure that whatever is attached is something you were expecting or can follow up about in another message.
One clever way malware is spread is by auto-mailing copies of itself to friends and family in an email contact list.
Avoid allowing malware to take advantage of security vulnerabilities in your programs by making sure you’re updating your software when updates are available, especially ones for Windows.
Removing Malware infections
Aside from the most serious of malware infections, most is removable with some simple steps, although some is easier to remove than others.
The most common types of malware are actual programs like the legitimate software you use every day. Those programs can be uninstalled, just like anything else, from Control Panel, particularly in Windows operating systems.
Other malware, however, is more complex to remove, like rogue registry key and individual files that can only removed manually. These types of malware infections are best removed with anti-malware tools and similar specialized programs.
a Lagos-Nigerian based ICT Journalist and a Guest Blogger for Nexxy Tech. you can connect with him on twitter @Tach_Kafoi and Facebook.