What is Malware? Part II

In part I of this series we discussed viruses, trojans, worms, and adware/spyware.  A few of these will ruin your files while some will spy and steal personal information. You can read What is Malware Part I here. Malware is short for “Malicious software”.  It’s an extremely broad definition that is meant to encompass all things from viruses, to spyware, to worms, and beyond.

In this article we’ll continue with the most common forms of malware and how you can best avoid them.

Ransomware

The newest and one of the worst forms of malware.  Ransomware will lock down your entire computer. It encrypts your files and holds them hostage until you pay a fee to decrypt them. There really isn’t much you can do if you get hit with ransomware.  There is no guarantee that the person holding the files hostage will decrypt your files once payment is received.

That is why it is important to keep good backups.  If you get infected with ransomware you can wipe the computer and restore from a previous back up.

Many anti-viruses are also well equipped to defend against the most common forms of ransomware.  However, not all anti-viruses are 100% and there is always a risk.

Keylogger

A keylogger is a type of malware that records every keystroke you make on the keyboard.  After it collects this information, it then usually uploads them to a server where someone can access it.

The purpose of this form of malware is fairly obvious.  If it can record every keystroke then it can record credit card information, log ins, passwords, and everything else that you type on your computer.  These are generally used for the purpose of identity theft and can be packaged with other things such as viruses, trojans, and spyware.

Rootkit

A rootkit is a form of malware that is designed for stealth.  Rootkit’s operate by hiding software on the PC. It essentially becomes invisible to the PC and can be extremely difficult to remove once infected.  Rootkit’s can hide many things such as keyloggers, botnets, and email hijackers.

Botnet

A botnet is a form of malware that installs a very specific piece of malware on your computer. Once installed it gives the botnet’s creator access to your machine.  The creator will then use all the infected computers for their own bidding.  Often times they use it to try to overload a server or website causing it to crash.  There are many other uses for the group of “bot” computers and the creators will often sell the use of their bots.

Conclusion

There you have it. The most common forms of malware and how to identify them.  There are several lines of defense when it comes to malware.

We recommend always using an anti-virus for starters.  You can also use an anti-malware program that is more specialized in catching other types of malware. ALWAYS keep up-to-date on system and software updates.  In windows you can run the windows update utility to make sure you have the latest patches from Microsoft.  They release these updates to fix bugs and/or patch security flaws that have been discovered.  If you’re still using an older unsupported operating system (such as XP or Vista) it’s time to upgrade to Windows 10.

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