Malware is a shortcut for “malicious software”. It defines all the multitude of programs designed for malicious purpose. We often still use “virus” as a synonim of “malware”, and it is not correct because “virus” defines a specific type of malicious program that can replicate itself.
On the other hand, as a term, “malware” is also misused and extended to cover non-maliious commercial software that is generally rejected by computer users and might present some security threats. As an example, programs used for advertising are often annoying but not malicious. However, they are often installed in a deceptive way without user’s consent. Commercial keyloggers designed for parent control might be used as spyware for malicious purpose, and so on. This makes it quite confusing to computer users and leaves a question about appropriate classification open.
Is it Malware?
As you can see, sometimes the answer depends on your own perception of a threat that one or another computer program presents. If you want to access a level of danger, then you need to consider a level of security that you want to maintain as well as a program type. The term “malware“, as it is commonly used, has three different meanings that include:
- Programs designed as malicious and used for illegal activities – surely malicious.
- Programs used for commercial activities that are misrepresented and deceptively installed
- Programs designed for legitimate purpose but used for illegal activities.
The first defenition is correct, and other two are extensions of the term “malware” used to define potential danger that some legitimate software might present, or danger that a program presents under specific conditions. As an example, as a victim of illegal surveilance performed with a help of commercial keylogger that collects your private information you will treat such program as malicious.
Malware-Detective.com uses extended meaning of the term “malware” because purpose of this site is protection against all possible threats. Programs that are not malicious in are marked as “non-malicious” in articles for clarification. The level of threat is also explained.
Different Types of Malware
Adware is malicious or non-malicious commercial software designed to display ads and to run other promotional activities. This type of programs is often defined as PUP (potentially unwanted program), and this demonstrates the main idea. Adware programs are often deceptively installed. They can present a threat to your privacy since adware programs collect information about your web browsing, and then it is often shared among marketers. Some of these marketers might use unwelcome ways of advertising and promotion.
Browser Hijacker is a malicious or non-malicious commercial program that alters web browser settings and redirect default web search, new tab, and homepage to commercial websites used for advertising and promotion. The purpose of these commercial programs is somehow misrepresented, and they are often deceptively installed. Different tricks that protect browser hijackers against removal are commonly used by distributors since prolonged use brings additional profit. In our opinion, such protection against removal is malicious.
Ransomware is malware designed for money extortion and distributed by cyber criminals. Most of such programs sometimes are called “scareware” since they exploit various common fears. Most common type of ransomware blocks victim’s access to computer controls and displays a message that accuses a victim in a law violation. This message is disguised as a one coming from FBI, Interpol, or local police and requests for a fine paid for the violation. Certainly, such a fine is just a ransom collected by cyber criminals. This malware removal process is often obstructed by rootkits.
Rogueware – is malware designed for running a scam for money extortion. Some of these programs are also “scareware” because they are disguised as anti-virus software and use false security alerts for scaring computer users and pushing them into purchasing licensed versions for removing malware supposedly found. Other types of rogueware consist of programs that either misrepresent the true purpose of such programs, or misrepresent the program’s ability to perform claimed activities.
Rootkit – is malware that has an access to a computer system root. This type of malware is commonly set as Windows system service. It is started before other system services and security software would start. This let criminals to control your system and block Windows tools and anti-virus software that might help to remove the infection. Rootkits that are spread by cyber criminals block Safe Mode and any other mean of user’s access to the infected computer. This malware removal process requires special tools that let to boot your computer without starting the rootkit.
Spyware – is malicious or improperly used commercial surveillance software used for collecting sensitive information about computer user. Such activity might endanger user’s security and privacy. Keyloggers, both malicious and commercial, are the most commonly spread threat to your security. They are used to capture any key strokes that you type. Sometimes, they capture your voice conversations and screens. Cyber criminals use spyware to disclose information that secures your banking and passwords that secure your access to different websites. Both are commonly used for stealing your money. Detecting and removing this malware is often very tricky business since spyware programs are always protected against detection and removal with few exceptions.
Trojan is a malware designed to pass through anti-virus defense unnoticed. It delivers and installs some malicious payload. Despite of efforts that anti-virus manufacturers undertake for Trojan detection, it is still a dangerous type of malware used for infecting computers.
Virus – is a malware that replicates itself and infects other files present on your computer. It not necessarily would run some other destructive activities, but most of viruses are used for some other malicious purpose that requires replication. As it compares to other malware designed mostly to hurt you, virus is the most dangerous infection to your computer system, especially if it is made for the purpose of damaging system root. It might damage all infected computers at once worldwide and help to run global criminal activities. This type of malware is hard to detect and remove without anti-virus software designed to protect your computer at the root level.
Worm – is a malware that uses networks for spreading malware and other malicious activities. Common type of worm is designed for disclosing email addresses in your address book and using them to deliver itself and other malicious payload. The most dangerous types don’t ever need email, and so they can spread very quickly and infect the whole network. Worms are often used by cyber criminals for blackmailing and DDoS attacks. They help to spread spam, hoaxes, and links to malicious websites. When you click such links, your computer will be infected with malware.
Malware is a term that defines any malicious program and sometimes it is used to define legitimate products that might present threat to your security and privacy. There are many specific types of malware designed by cyber criminals. You need to understand basics of each type and ways of protection against computer infection. Anti-virus and anti-malware software can protect you and your computer against different types of malicious and dangerous programs, and safe ways of using your computer are just as important for your protection against malware and other threats.