Comparing Viruses and Malware
What is a Virus?
A virus is a form of software or code that is able to copy itself from one computer to another without the user’s knowledge and consent. The name has become associated with additionally performing malicious tasks, such as corrupting or destroying data. A virus requires the user to run an infected software or operating system for the virus to spread, whereas a malware can spread by itself.
What is Malware?
Malware is shorthand for malicious software. It is software developed by cyber attackers with the intention of gaining access or causing damage to a computer or network, often while the victim remains unaware to the fact there’s been a compromise. Malware can come in many forms; such as, viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, rootkits, spyware, adware, scareware, backdoors, and key loggers among other terms. Each having a different technique to attack the computer system(s) that are vulnerable.
NOTE: More information on the different types of malware will be coming in future Security Tips.
So, viruses are malware. Not all malware are viruses.
Once malware is installed, an attacker can spy on your activity, steal data, utilize your computer resources, or use your device to attack others. Malware has more frequently been designed for profit. In addition to criminal money-making, malware can be used for sabotage, often for political motives.
How to spot them
Hackers will try to trick you into installing malware on your device! Here’s some things to keep an eye out for:
- Pop-up windows are an easy way to get you. Sometimes we like to click away without reading content. We are all in a hurry! But that window you clicked on could download something that infects your device.
- Hackers often use email to send malicious links or attachments. It may look like it is from a friend or bank. If a message is confusing, has a strong sense of urgency, or seems too good to be true, it could be an attack!
- Keep an eye out for documents that ask you to enable content and run macros. Opening that content can start the attack on your device.
- Apps that have little to no downloads or positive reviews. This is just another avenue that can be used to infect your phone or tablet.
- The most common step to protect yourself from malware is by installing anti-virus/anti-malware software from a trusted vendor. PNW Information Services helps manage and protect antivirus/anti-malware across campus. Make sure to use some on your personal devices!
- Make sure your devices are up-to-date. Companies will send out security updates that fix holes in their product. Hackers will try to take advantage of those flaws if you don’t!
- Ignore those web pop-ups about software updates. Always get yours from the company’s web site.
- Be careful if you find a USB lying around. Sometimes a free USB can be used against you.
- Hover over links to review where it’s taking you.
- Scan attachments using your antivirus/anti-malware. You can report the attachment to the source if you aren’t sure.