The Difference Between Computer Viruses and Malware

04/23/2019

Often the terms malware and computer virus are used interchangeably however they are in fact not the same.  A computer virus is just one type of malware that a computer can become infected with.  It is a commonly used term to describe an infection within a computer system.  The term malware is a broader term and refers to any and all malicious software that infects a computer, including a computer virus.  Two common types of malware that users are familiar with are spyware and adware.  It is crucial that users install protection software to fight off new malware as it occurs. 

Malware infections are infecting computer systems and mobile devices at growing rate.  Malware is a software program that has been created to cause damage and spread infection from a host system to systems the host comes in “contact” with.  Including computer viruses, malware includes various types of software including trojan horses, worms, adware, and spyware.  The most aggressive malware, known as ransomware, works to gain financially from computer users. 

Viruses:  As previously stated, a computer virus is one type of malware on its own.  A virus is infectious software code that is used to infect a host system and spreads when it runs.  Computer viruses are most often spread when software is shared between computers.  It is similar to a parasite in that the virus “feeds” off the host computer and spreads from the host.  Once the host shares the virus it then continues to spread to systems that it is shared with.   A lot of users with viruses end up with them due to receiving and opening an email that has a virus infection. The more the email is shared, the more systems ultimately become infected.

Adware: Infected software that comes through in the form of advertisements is known as adware.  This type of malware that provides advertisements in order to bring in revenue for the source.  The infected ad is shown to the computer user and when the ad is installed the system is infected.  Adware software is coded in a manner that it uses the sites that users often visit to create related ads.  Although all adware does not have the intent to harmful it becomes a problem because it slows down computer function and can be quite aggravating. 

Spyware: Software that spies on your online activity and tracks where you go on the internet in order to gather information on the user is known as spyware.  Users do not consent to the tracking and often do not know it is running.  Spyware is a difficult type of malware to detect.  Employers may install spyware programs to monitor the online activity of users.  Employer installed spyware software will not spread.

Worms:  A worm is a malware type that duplicates itself and annihilates the information and files that are saved on the pc including the operating and data files.

Trojan: Trojans are a virus that has been created in a manner that builds user trust by making them think they are about to tun a safe program.  They are designed to steal information and then take over the files within the computer system.  In larger commercial settings, Trojans can make network resources unavailable to users when they try to reach it.

Ransomware: The most malicious type of malware is known as ransomware.  Users are unable to access the system until they have paid a fee.  Often times a pop-up shows on the computer screen which states the user has been locked out.  It will state that a ransom fee needs to be paid in order to remove any restrictions that have been placed on the system.  Cryptolocker is the most well-known type of ransomware today. 

If you believe that your personal computer, server, or network workstation has become infected with malware it is critical that the system is shut down and immediately scanned by software that is specifically designed to locate and remove infections.  The professional IT specialists at Creative Programs and Systems can perform these scans via remote desktop, in person at your location, or on-site in our Brighton, MI location. 

Creative Programs and Systems, CPS, is an all-inclusive IT solutions company offering a variety of services including: managed IT services, IT consulting, residential computer services, custom programming, website design, iphone & android app development, and more.  More information can be found at https://cpsmi.com.



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