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What is Malware in 2019?

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We get asked the question all the time at Rush Tech support “What is Malware?”. Most of the time people have a firm understanding of what a virus is but fail to realize that viruses fall under the larger umbrella of malware. So what is malware exactly?

According to Wikipedia in the simplest sense malware “is any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network.”

However all malware are viruses. Viruses are just one type of malware. Similar to how not every computer is made by Dell. Dell is just one of many brands of computers and viruses are just one brand of several types of malware.

Common malware types include viruses, bots, scareware, ransomware, adware, spyware, rootkits, and worms.

Virus

Disrupts the normal use of the computer. Usually characterized by sluggish performance and crashing. A virus’s goal is to destroy and harm the computer. Most of the time infections of this variety are created for fairly petty reasons. Sometimes there is no money to be gained by it’s creator but just destruction of your personal computer

Bots

This attack is about numbers. Your computer and thousands of others can be used under the direction of one individual (The Bot Master) after being infected by this type of malware. Usually, infected computers are then used in an orchestrated action such as to take down specific websites or launch DDoS attacks.

A DDoS attack or distributed denial of service attack is when multiple computers are attempting to access a website constantly overwhelm it. A website is hosted by a network and it’s resources are finite. If enough people repeatedly attempt to access that site it can be made inaccessible for other users not involved in the attack.

Scareware

This type of malware pops on your computer saying you need to pay money in order to fix an imaginary error. Scareware will make up any number of very scary sounding reasons as to why you have to pay or call a number. Scareware may claim your hard drive is about to crash, the FBI will be notified of illegal activity, all of your personal data is being exploited and set off overseas, etc. The list of lies is endless but the goal is to scare you while there is no actual threat being present. Sometimes this type of malware is bundled with less than reputable software. If you’re rushing during the installation process you may have not noticed that you agreed to download a bundled software. That bundled software is sometimes scareware.
Ransomware: This type of malware encrypts your data and you need the pay some type of ransom in order to get your files back. Most of the time this is done through a cryptocurrency or other untraceable means. It’s unfortunate that even after you pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars requested there is no guarantee that you will get your data back.

Adware

One of the least scary of the malware types listed. Often times it’s primarily just advertisements popping up on the computer. These types of advertisements might be misleading or outright lies but they’re essentially just advertisements. This version of malware could also be considered scareware because it’ll frighten you into calling a phone number and is a thinly veiled advertisement.

Spyware

Software that is designed to gather your personal information and sell it to third parties. It has been increasingly common for spyware has been used against large corporation to get it’s customer’s credit cards and personal information. Although this type of spyware tends to be done on a larger scale because the reward also is greater it is not uncommon for it to happen also on personal computers. Passwords, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, etc. are all key information that can later be sold on the Dark Web.

Rootkits

An extreme infection that can infect to the operating system level. A computer which is infected with a rootkit is pretty much as exploited as it can get. A rootkit allows for control and editing by a 3rd party on every level of the system. Passwords can be changed, accounts can be locked, keystrokes can be logged, any number of things are possible. It really just depends on what that individual wants to do or what their intentions are.
Worms: Once a worm is on one computer in the network it’s the goal is to get on all of the computers in the network. Worms are designed to bounce between computers, infect and control, and then move on. Its intentions vary but worms dig into the network and that’s what classifies them as worms.

It is important to know the difference between malware so you’re aware of the ever-changing landscape. If you know how large the threat is you can handle the issue with a measured response rather assuming the worst with every pop-up. Understanding is key to keeping a clean computer. However not if computer knowledge isn’t your strong suit there are those that dedicate their life to understanding the ever-changing tech climate.

If you need further information or want a check up to see how your computer is running, feel free to give us a call at 844-881-7874.

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