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By Marissa Bergen
Today, we access the Internet from various devices so we must do all we can to protect our sensitive information from unwanted and/or illegal intrusions. Although many people know that malware harms computers, many of them do not have a good understanding of exactly what malware is or the harm it causes.
Malware can be defined as any intrusive threat on the Internet. These intrusions are not always destructive, but they result in annoying behaviors like causing your computer to run slowly and creating an overabundance of annoying popup ads.
However, not all malware is benign. Malware can also steal your data.
Here are some types of malware to avoid:
- Adware: This software displays unwanted ads on a computer or mobile device. It usually comes in the form of pop-up ads or redirects your site to a different browser, but does not cause any direct harm to your device. Adware is annoying and, worse, may contain spyware.
- Spyware: This type of malware hides in your computer and spies on everything you do. It tracks your web activity, accesses your emails and steals important information such as your username and passwords.
- Bots: Bots carry out automated tasks on your computer, such as causing attacks on other machines and creating botnets, networks of private computers controlled without the owners’ knowledge. Once a bot infects your computer, that computer is considered a “zombie” and is under the hacker’s control. Bots can distribute spam, inject adware into other computers and recruit computers for Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
- Macro viruses: Macro viruses are created specifically to alter macros — common commands used by programs. These viruses can be found in documents like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Macro viruses will not harm your computer until those programs are launched. Once that happens, they can make changes in documents by altering, removing or inserting unwanted text.
- Ransomware: This type of malware poses a high-level threat. It holds data on your computer hostage via file encryption. Ransomware transmits itself via a Trojan horse virus and encrypts the data on your computer’s hardware. The attacker then demands a fee, which must be paid in order for the computer’s owner to receive an encryption code and unlock the data. If this type of attack happens to you, never pay the fee. You can restore your computer data from your most recent backup.
- Trojan horses: This malware causes severe damage to data, including by deleting, modifying, stealing and copying data. Trojan horse malware can even disrupt network activity. Like the classic Greek story, this malware hides in what appears to be a normal file and then springs into destructive action.
Malware can be annoying at times and destructive at others. Either way, you definitely want to avoid having this unwanted software in your computer. Do what you can to avoid malware: Keep your sensitive data safe by regularly creating backups and know the signs of malware to avoid permanent damage to your computer and mobile devices.
About the Author
Marissa Bergen is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, New York. Passionate about everything from fashion to technology, her writing experience has increased her awareness of digital marketing, cybersecurity and the ever-expanding World Wide Web. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. Google her to find out more about her writing and her other life as a bass player in her family band, The CheeseBergens.