The term “Malware” has been in use since 1990 but many people are more familiar with the term "computer virus." However, a computer virus is only one form of hostile or intrusive software that can inhabit your computer system. To help embed the term “computer virus” in the minds of computer users is that hundreds of companies generate millions of dollars in profit on the development and sales of “antivirus” software. However, these protective software applications help prevent more than just computer virus attacks and address the broader issue of malware. But to understand “Malware” people need to think broader, much broader.
Malware is the term used to describe any computer code that is hostile or intrusive and include such threats as computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, adware, spyware, scareware, and other malicious programs. Examples of malware are defined below (Wikipedia):
- Virus: Software that installs itself without user consent and attaches to a host program. It is self-replicating and may or may not be destructive.
- Worms: Similar to a computer virus, but worms do not need to attach themselves to an existing program to replicate and distribute itself on a computer network.
- Trojan Horse: A malicious program that invades your computer by misleading users of its true intent. Typically, Trojans do not propagate themselves.
- Ransomware: Malware that restricts/prevents user access to the computer and demands the user pay “ransom” to the malware developer to remove the access restriction.
- Adware: Software that spies on computer user activities and then automatically renders advertisements in order to generate revenue.
- Spyware: A hidden program that gathers information about a person or computer system and sends the data to the malware developer. Trojans and Adware can fall in this category as well.
- Scareware: Malware designed to cause shock, anxiety or the perception of a threat thereby scaring users into buying unwanted software. Often Spyware and Adware use Scareware type methods as well.
So, just how prevalent is malware? Let’s put things into perspective. According to AVTest Institute, an independent IT-Security Institute, in 2016 there are over 500 million active malware programs that could be used to infect computer systems. Are these old malware programs that simply keep circulating via the Internet or are new malware programs being developed? Yes, and no. Many active malware programs have been around for years and continue to crop up, but in 2015, AVTest identified 140 million new malware programs. Sadly, 2016 is on track to produce more new malicious threats than where developed in 2015.
It is a safe bet to say that there is not a single person using an Internet connected computer (smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop) that has avoided the impact of malware. How can you tell if you are infected? That will be the message in my article for next week.
For more information regarding malware and how to determine if your system is infected, feel free to contact Reedy Creek Enterprise Solutions to start a conversation.