What is Malware?

Malware is a broad category of software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system. Types of malware include spyware, adware, Trojan horses, Worms, and true viruses.

  • Spyware, a type of malware, is any technology that collects personal information about the user of a computer without his or her informed consent. It is a software designed to infiltrate and intentionally or otherwise damage a computer system without the owner's informed consent. Spyware utilizes a range of techniques in order to record personal information, including logging keystrokes, recording Internet web browsing history, and scanning documents on the computer's hard disk. Spyware can get in a computer as a software virus or as the result of installing a new program.
  • A computer virus is a self-replicating computer program written to alter the way a computer operates, without the permission or knowledge of the user. Though the term is commonly used to refer to a range of malware, a true virus must replicate itself, and must execute itself. The latter criteria are often met by a virus which replaces existing executable files with a virus-infected copy. While viruses can be intentionally destructive--destroying data, for example--some viruses are benign or merely annoying.
  • A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program. It uses a network to send copies of itself to other systems and it may do so without any user intervention. Unlike a virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms always harm the network (if only by consuming bandwidth), whereas viruses always infect or corrupt files on a targeted computer. Email Worms spread via email messages. Typically the worm will arrive as email, where the message body or attachment contains the worm code, but it may also link to code on an external website.
  • Adware is software designed to serve advertising and is usually thought of as spyware because it almost invariably includes components for tracking and reporting user information. However, marketing firms object to having their products called "spyware." As a result, some Internet security providers now refer to such applications as "potentially unwanted programs."

How do I Avoid Malware?

  • Use updated anti-spyware and anti-virus software to help guard yourself against these types of email fraud.
  • Do not open emails from unknown sources.
  • Do not download software directly from email messages, or from companies or web sites you do not recognize and trust.
  • Do not use links in an email to access a web page if you suspect the message may not be authentic.
  • Be cautious when opening attachments or downloading files from emails.