Know the Different Types of Malware - dummies

By Dan Gookin

Malicious + Software = Malware. In other words, malware is the all-encompassing term to describe programs that can do damage to you or your computer. The best way to prevent malware from intruding on your life is to understand how the different types of malware work. Here’s a quick overview:

Phishing: The phishing scam masquerades as a legitimate website or link to a site, but what it’s really trying to do is “fish” for information. By fooling you into thinking that you’re visiting your bank or a shopping or government website, the scam gets you to divulge personal or financial information, which the Bad Guys then exploit.

Spyware: Like its name says, spyware monitors your movements on the Internet, sending information back to a central computer that then targets you with advertising. It sounds okay, but the category has broadened to include programs you download to your computer that monitor your activities to the point that your computer slows down to a useless state. Further, the spyware itself becomes nearly impossible to remove.

Trojan horse: The Trojan program is malware that masquerades as a legitimate program. The program may have a legitimate function, but it carries ulterior motives. Trojans can delete data, compromise security, relay spam or porn, and otherwise infect your computer.

Virus: Like its living counterpart, a computer virus infects your computer, taking control over some or all of its functions. The virus destroys data or looks for things like passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive data. This information is often sent to another computer. A virus can also use your computer to relay spam email or pornography or to coordinate attacks against websites on the Internet.

Worm: Officially, a worm is a virus that replicates itself over a network. Worms often arrive via email, peruse your address book, and then send a copy of themselves to others in your address book, masquerading the message as though it’s from you. Worms are used to deliver viruses, or the worm itself might be a virus, because the terms are interchangeable.