Malware refers to all kinds of software that poses a threat to your computer. Some operating systems are more vulnerable to attacks than others. Whatever your system, your inbox is always safe thanks to mail.com’s comprehensive tools for email protection.
What is malware?
Malware is an umbrella term used to describe any malicious software that infects an operating system or network. The term covers everything from destructive viruses to deceptive spyware designed to gather information on the user. There are many types of malware online; the first step to protecting yourself against them is to understand what they are and how you get them.
At mail.com, we know how important your computer’s security is. That’s why we also provide our customers with the tools needed to stay safe online, like comprehensive antivirus and powerful anti-spam filters, plus a host of flexible settings designed to shield you from threats – so, you get the most out of your mail.com account.
How do you get malware?
Malware operates and spreads in multiple ways. Peer-to-peer sites, downloads, software installation, clicking on ads to close them, opening attachments in emails and even certain websites can act as a point of entry. Regardless of your operating system the effects of malware are obvious, however, due to its market share, Windows is considered the most susceptible, followed by Mac and Linux.
In addition to this, when new software is released, computers are subject to a period of vulnerability known as zero-day. This is when hackers are able to exploit a previously unknown or undisclosed weakness in the software by developing malware that targets the computer program, data, or network. It is called this because once exposed, the author has zero days to resolve the problem by issuing a patch or other fix.
Signs & symptoms of malware
At mail.com we believe that understanding the various types of malware and how they affect your computer is the first step towards better protection online. There are many types of malware, and each one performs a different function:
The term virus is frequently used to describe any malicious software that has infected a system. However, a virus performs a specific function that distinguishes it from other malware.
- The purpose of a virus is to propagate itself onto another system as quickly as possible, much as a biological virus would.
- And like a real virus, it often does so at the expense of its host; to prevent their removal, computer viruses are usually destructive in nature, causing systems to crash. This makes it difficult for the administrator to regain control.
Viruses are capable of performing more subversive actions, such as data acquisition and information theft, but the defining feature of this malware is always how it spreads: viruses rely on human activity to run files that will launch the virus and allow it to propagate, whether it’s email, file sharing, downloads or USB sticks.
Worms can be as harmful and innocuous as viruses. The difference is that a worm spreads across a system on its own accord, and does not require any action on the part of the user in order to propagate. This is usually done by exploiting a weakness in a network. Because they are not attached to a file, they are usually easier to remove than other malware.
Spyware is the most common malware. It can be subdivided into several categories: Trojans, adware, system monitors, and tracking cookies. Each one performs a specific action.
- However, the purpose of spyware is always to track the user without their consent and then report information to a third party.
- Spyware is often disguised as, or bundled with legitimate software.
- In order to become infected by spyware the user must download and run the malware, though there are some websites that attack operating systems and force installation.
The information transmitted by spyware can be anything from browsing history to passwords to bank card details. Spyware is one of the most difficult malwares to detect since the aim is to gradually accrue data on the user (some anti-spyware programs are in fact spyware themselves).
The data is then sold on to companies, and in the case of adware malware can be used to generate unsolicited ads based on the user’s search history. In more serious circumstances, the data gathered will provide the third party with access to personal information, which can lead to identity theft.
Botnet refers to when a computer’s security defenses have been breached by malware that allows a third party to gain control.
- Each infected computer is individually known as a bot. Botnets can infect a computer though a number of means, including email, drive-by download, web browser weakness, or even in other malware, such as spyware.
- Once installed, it sends a reconnection packet to the main computer. The vector file may then delete itself.
- Botnets perform a variety of functions including sending spam, downloading illegal files, or even attacking other computers. They can also be used to search the hard drive for private information.
- Many computer owners are unaware that that their system has been infected by a botnet as there are few signs.
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