As a result of being online, there are several types of malicious software that you need to be aware of in order to protect your computer or mobile device. The level of damage these programs can wreak on your hardware is devastating, ranging from merely hampering its performance to stealing or obliterating the personal data it holds. Given how much we’ve come to rely on technology, malicious software can really bring life to a grinding halt should the hardware we use become infected with it.
The following four (4) malicious software programs are the primary components in the collective commonly referred to as malware:
Virus: A computer virus is a type of program that is capable of self-replication. It infects or infiltrates other computers with clones or copies of its malicious code. In the past, this was achieved through the use and sharing of floppy discs. These days it is email that is usually the culprit. The infiltration of computer viruses is particularly complex in that they can be programmed to inflict damage to both hardware and software.
Spyware: As its name suggests, this type of malicious software observes your behavior and collects information about you on your machine. It is also capable of sending this data back to third-parties, who will then use it for legitimate or illegal profit. In extreme cases, spyware would send details about your bank account to a hacker, who would then proceed to empty it.
Trojan Horse: Do you remember the Greek myth about the wooden horse and how it was presented to the city of Troy as a spoil of war? Unbeknownst to the Trojans, hostile Greek soldiers laid wait in its belly, emerging when they least expected them to and ultimately conquering their beloved city. In the world of computing, a Trojan horse is a malicious software program masquerading as a benign one. It may, for instance, trick the user in thinking they are running a legitimate software program, all the while providing hackers an entry point into your machine.
Worms: Worms are nearly identical to computer viruses, but differ in that they make their way to machines over a network. Unlike traditional computer viruses which have to be invoked, these formidable software components don’t require malicious code to be run. A simple network connection can spell trouble for the end user.
As worrisome as malicious software can be, users can generally ward off threats by taking basic precautionary actions. These include installing software updates regularly, and thinking before clicking on suspicious links—whether in a browser or your email client. Additionally, any programs you install from the Internet or a CD should be first be scanned. This can be achieved with running and using a reputable antivirus (AV) program.
The threat of malicious software is ever present in cyberspace. But as with most things in life, it can be dealt with by arming yourself with the right knowledge, and by taking the necessary steps to ensure your security. It can be thought of as fight between good and evil in which your strategy and countermeasures will ultimately prevail.
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