Malware describes a broad category of software that you don’t want on your computer, such as viruses, spyware and trojans. Confused by these labels? It can be challenging to keep track of them.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the more popular terms and what they mean:
Virus – a program written to do damage to software or data on a computer. It generally spreads automatically without user intervention by taking advantage of weak spots in a computer operating system or in popular software. (This is why software updates and patches are so important.)
Worm – a program which basically attempts to replicate as much as possible across network, usually with little damage. Usually written by a college student with too much time on his/her hands.
Trojan – a program that is user-activated which appears to be one thing, but is something else. Small games are a good example of this – sometimes they may appear to be a normal game but have additional malicious code in them.
Spyware – a program which is usually user-activated (by clicking a link on a website, or by inserting a USB key or CD/DVD) which ‘spies’ on the end-user’s activities, usually for marketing purposes. Spyware writers are usually funded by a marketing company of some sort, and generally come from Eastern Europe or China.
Ransomware – a program which usually infects your computer via similar routes to Spyware, but holds your computer hostage and demands payment before you can use your computer normally. Fake Antivirus (FakeAV) is a type of Ransomware.
Freeware – legitimate software which can be used without paying money – a free license.
Begware – legitimate software which is free but the author requests a donation.