Virus and malware are two terms you’re most likely to come across on the subject of cyber security. These terms are often used interchangeably but the truth is, they are not one and the same.
So, what’s the difference between a virus and malware?
Malware (or ‘malicious software’)
Malware is an umbrella term that covers any form of software that is designed with malicious intent: That may be to steal data, cause damage to a website, or destroy an entire server.
A virus is one form of this malicious software, malware, and there are plenty more.
The 6 most common types of malware
As mentioned, there are many malicious programmes under the malware umbrella, each operating in a slightly different way to cause the destruction they are designed to. These are the 6 most common forms:
#1 Virus – much like a parasite, this piece of malicious code is injected into a file or folder and is designed to replicate itself and spread like… a virus!
#2 Worms – as nasty as it sounds, this type of malware looks for vulnerabilities in a system, exploits them and then moves on to destroy the next host. In a shared hosting environment, it can wriggle its way through an entire server, taking down network after network.
#3 Trojan – just like the horse, Trojan malware is designed to trick users into willingly letting it into their system. The malicious code is hidden in applications that are appealing for download and then released on to your PC at the point of installation. The result is the creation of a ‘backdoor’ opened for hackers to exploit.
#4 Adware – as the name suggests, this is fake advertising and is designed simply to take people’s money. If adware starts popping up on your website, it will also damage your reputation.
#5 Scareware – these ‘emergency’ pop-ups are literally designed to scare you. These aggressive alerts will tell you your computer has been hacked and the only way to save your life’s work is by clicking to purchase an anti-malware product… which doesn’t exist.
#6 Ransomware – probably one of the most notorious forms of malware, ransomware is designed to encrypt files and demand payment for its release. Whether you pay or not, the effects can be severely damaging.
So why do we confuse a virus with malware?
The first-ever malicious software was identified in the 1980s and was reported to be ‘infecting computer systems like a virus’ – the term ‘computer virus’ was born.
Since then, malicious software has developed just as fast as technology and a virus is no longer the only cyber threat.
Honestly, it’s as simple as that.
Check out our blog on What To Do If You Think Your PC Has A Virus.
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