What is Malware

Malware has been running wild on computers all over the world this year, and one big question I get all the time is; “I have an antivirus program, why am I still getting viruses?” Well the answer is simple. Because it’s not a virus, it’s malware.  This blog post will be the first in a multi-part series explaining what malware is and why you keep getting them.

Let’s begin the discussion with what Malware is.  Malware is a general term to include all (as the name implies) malicious software. There are many types of malware, hundreds of different kinds to be exact. I will only give you a list of the most common here going in-depth into each one in the upcoming blog posts.

Viruses: The most common ones you hear about are viruses.  Just like a viral infection in the human body, a computer virus is something that sits in your computer and when you unknowingly interact with it, the virus spreads.  There can be two different types of viruses.  Root viruses which infect the operating system when you turn the computer on, and macro viruses that infect the macros in Microsoft Office files.

Worms: Just like viruses they are infections that reside hidden in your computer.  Unlike viruses, they do actually harm the files on your computer.  A worm over time can eat away the files in your computer as a worm eats a way through the ground.

Trojan Virus: This could be any form of malware and do just about anything. If you remember history class the story of the Trojan horse is where this virus gets its name. It’s because the virus get onto your computer because you think you are downloading something else.  Most commonly when you go on peer to peer file sharing services and illegally download files, some of those files could be Trojan viruses.

Adware: These are harmless but annoying.  They are the pop up ads you get trying to sell you things you don’t need.  Ad blocker tools in Google Chrome and Firefox help to prevent them, but they will also block legitimate popups you may need as well.

Spyware: Just as the name implies, these types of malware do nothing but spy on you. Ever notice when you are surfing the web, the popup ads are for things you have searched for in the past? Well, if so chances are you have spyware in your computer.  While not always the case, some spyware is in the form of a key logger which is designed to record every key you press in hopes to steal password and other personal information.

Scareware: This is those annoying messages get saying that there is something wrong with your computer and you need to call this number to fix it. DON’T CALL THE NUMBER. There is nothing wrong with your computer, other than you have a piece of malware.  Simply hold down the Ctrl and the ALT keys, and while doing that type the DELETE key. Then let all the keys go and a screen will come up. Click on “Task Manager”. In task manager click on your browser, and select “End Task”.  This will remove the malware and make your computer safe.  When you turn the browser back on if you are asked to “restore your previous session” don’t. Click the x in the corner of the box to close it out.

With all these different types of malware, it’s easy to see why it’s hard to control.  When you have an “Antivirus” program that’s all it’s looking for is a virus marker. If it’s any of these other types of malware, the software will ignore it. What you really need to do is look for an “Antivirus/Antimalware” software all in one or buy two different services.  If you currently have antivirus only, there is a good product out there called Malware Bytes. This program if you purchase the paid version will run alongside your antivirus program and pick up what the other software doesn’t.  Now keep in mind that no antivirus software is perfect. There is still a chance that you will get hit from time to time, as no one can claim to catch it all.  Having protection and a good backup will help to drastically reduce your risk over all though.

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