There are many types of software out there that pose danger to the security of your computer and the information on it. We often hear words like malware, spyware, adware, and antivirus thrown around without knowing what exactly those terms refer to. It’s important to know the difference between these software threats so that you can adequately secure your computer and protect your information.
Adware is a type of software that tracks your internet browsing habits and will then display advertisements relating to your browsing history. Have you ever looked at a particular item on a website, and then seen the same item pop up in ad on a different website? That’s adware at work. While this may seem harmless, adware you unknowingly download may simultaneously download potentially harmful software. And though adware is often harmless, it is important to know that this software does track the websites you visit, the keys you type, and collect other data about your online presence.
A computer virus is a specific type of malware, typically in the form of a piece of code, that is capable of continually copying itself and infecting a computer. When the code is malicious, a virus can corrupt data and disrupt computer systems, replicating itself to fill up disk space or other memory space. Viruses are sometimes hidden in the forms of games, email attachments, images, shared files, or other downloads.
Spyware is a malicious program that covertly downloads onto your computer (in the form of an email attachment, a downloaded game or program, and more) and collects information from your hard drive, whether it’s personal information or your browsing history. Sophisticated spyware can even record personal information you enter into websites, such as age and address, credit card numbers, and banking information.
Ransomware is defined as “a type of malware that can be covertly installed on a computer without knowledge or intention of the user that restricts access to the infected computer system in some way, and demands that the user pay a ransom to the malware operators to remove the restriction. The cryptovirology form of the attack has ransomware systematically encrypt files on the system’s hard drive, which becomes intractable to decrypt without paying the ransom for the decryption key. Other attacks may simply lock the system and display messages intended to coax the user into paying. Ransomware typically propagates as a Trojan, whose payload is disguised as a seemingly legitimate file.” Read more on ransomware here.
Malware, or malicious software, is a broad term that encompasses a variety of threatening computer softwares including viruses, worms, spyware, adware, rootkits, and phishing. These softwares interfere with normal computer operations in different ways, often giving hackers a window to get in and gain access to your information while damaging or disabling certain computer systems. Thanks to advances in anti-malware software, most anti-malware programs will protect you from the threats listed above. As long as your anti-malware software is up to date, you should be protected from most viruses and adware.
While most programs that protect against malware will keep you safe from the various forms of malicious software out there, it is important to know the risks you are left open to when using a computer. The more you know, the more steps you can take to protect your computer and your personal information.