TechTalkTuesday – Malware vs. Viruses

It’s #TechTalkTuesday – where tech terms are defined, explained, and no longer a mystery.

Today we’re discussing the differences between malware and viruses. Do you know the differences?

Malware and virus are terms that are often seen used interchangeably. While it’s understandable to see how some may think that they are one and the same, the truth is that they are different. Learning the differences can help you to protect yourself, protect your devices, protect your data, and know how to best handle the situation if your personal information is compromised.

Let’s look at malware

The term malware is an umbrella term that is used to describe any kind of malicious software. The term is applied to the malicious software, no matter how it functions, what its focus is, or how it happens to be distributed. The malware category includes the following types of software.

  • This tricky code pushes advertisements at users, across devices.
  • A worm is a self-replicating piece of code that can spread throughout a network. It differs from a virus by spreading through the exploitation of vulnerabilities in a system.
  • This type of malware demands that victims pay a ransom in order to get access back to their device. Major organizations have fallen victim to ransomware over the years.
  • This devious code could log information about the websites users visit, data about the device used, and it could also record keystrokes. Keyloggers that record what the user types can be used to steal passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data.
  • With loud alarms, flashing pictures or a shaking browser, scareware tries to trick users into thinking their device has been infected. Of course, the only fix for this infection is to enter in a credit card number and install fake antivirus software.
  • A type of malware.
  • Other harmful software types, such as fileless malware. Unlike the traditional malware, a fileless version will not need to be downloaded and installed onto a device. It will operate solely in the memory of the computer. It can evade detection by hiding out in a security application, trusted utility, or some other type of tool.

Malware can be found infecting laptops, desktops, network servers, and even smartphones. Some of it doesn’t need to be clicked on in order to be activated.

Let’s look at viruses

A virus is a type of malware. It is designed to replicate itself and spread across to as many other devices as possible. Think of a software virus as being programmed to behave much like a biological virus.

  • A biological virus will infect the host
  • The virus will self-replicate
  • The biological virus will spread as many new hosts as is possible

Just how does a software virus proliferate? They can be found imbedded in email attachments, applications, and images. They can also be found on networking routers, infected websites, and portable storage devices. The vast majority of viruses are distributed by attaching themselves or being attached to legitimate applications and files.

Once a virus has been activated, it will get to work. The level of sophistication will dictate just what the virus is capable of. Simple viruses can delete important system files or lead to damage to your hard drive. Those with more complex programming may send out spam or use your computer as a tool for a larger scheme. Some viruses, those with highly advanced programming, can even self-modify their code in order to avoid being detected.

Detecting and eliminating viruses and other malware

Prevention is always going to be your first line of defense when it comes to malicious software infecting your devices. Avoid opening emails and attachments from people or companies you don’t recognize. Don’t click on links or flashing banners telling you that your device is infected. Be aware of the types of malware and be aware of how they can potentially get onto your device.

Make sure you have at least one antivirus solution running on your device. It can be prudent to run more than one, as some may not be as updated as others.