Malware 101

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In our previous post we discussed the Russian malware known as VPNFilter.  In this post we figured we should pull back a little and give you a rundown on malware in general.  You’ve probably heard lots of terms associated with malware – viruses, rootkits, Trojans, etc, – but maybe you don’t understand how they’re related.  We’ll try to clear that up.

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Malware is a broad, umbrella term that means “malicious software.”  It basically encompasses all software created will malicious intent, whether it be as simple as making an annoying image pop up on your computer, or as nefarious as trying to sabotage national infrastructure.  Malware covers a very broad range of methods and goals, so we’ll look at some of the most common ones.

Virus = One of the most common terms, a computer virus functions somewhat similarly to a biological virus.  It gets into a host – your computer – and then uses the host’s resources – files and other programs – to replicate.  They can then steal data, email copies of themselves to your contacts, and more.

Worm = Worms are similar to viruses, except they do not require a specific host.  Instead, a worm can duplicate itself while it floats around in your network. Because this is one of the few distinctions between viruses and worms, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Trojans = Trojans get their name from their delivery method.  They present themselves as an innocent program or other piece of software, and may even perform some sort of innocuous function on the surface, but the ultimate, ulterior motive of a Trojan is malicious.  Mercifully, one other trait of Trojans is that they do not duplicate themselves, so they do not spread quite as easily.

These are but three of the major types of malware.  There are many other forms of malware, and perhaps will cover them in more depth later, but for now we want to give you a little  knowledge on defending against them. Fleas make for a good comparison to malware. Once fleas get in your house, they can multiply like crazy, become a considerable nuisance, and prove difficult to get rid of.  The same is true of malware. When possible, it is best to prevent the malware from entering in the first place.

Common entry methods for malware:

– Clicking on ads

– Opening email attachments

– Downloading files from the internet

– Connecting an infected device like a USB drive to your computer

Everyone – especially those that are not tech-savvy – should have some form of anti-virus/anti-malware program on their computer.  And you must make sure that those programs are kept updated! Anti-malware programs work by scanning your computer and comparing what it finds to a database of known malware to see if it finds a match.  New malware is created every day, so you have to make sure your anti-malware program is updating its database.  And if this all seems confusing to you, call us or drop us a message and we’ll do it for you.