“Malware” is short for “malicious software” - computer programs designed to infiltrate and damage computers without the users consent. “Malware” is the general term covering all the different types of threats to your computer safety such as viruses, spyware, worms, trojans, rootkits and so on.
The story of malware
Virus creators, or “virus writers”, started off writing viruses in the early 1980’s. Until the late 1990’s most of the viruses were just pranks made up in order to annoy users and to see how far a virus could spread. The writers were often young programmers, some still in their teens, who didn’t always understand the vast consequences of their actions.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, virus writers and hackers began to put their talents to more professional and sometimes criminal use. The internet had become everyone’s tool for information and businesses and banks were beginning to use it for commerce and transactions. As practical as online shopping and banking are, they also opened a world of opportunities for economic exploitation of both corporations and the ordinary computer user.
Today many experts believe the amount of malicious software being released on the web might actually surpass the release of valid software.
Different types of malware
The term malware includes viruses, worms, Trojan Horses, rootkits, spyware, keyloggers and more. To get an overview of the difference between all these types of threats and the way they work, it makes sense to divide them into groups:
Viruses and worms – the contagious threat
Viruses and worms are defined by their behaviour – malicious software designed to spread without the user’s knowledge. A virus infects legitimate software and when this software is used by the computer owner it spreads the virus – so viruses need you to act before they can spread. Computer worms, on the other hand, spread without user action. Both viruses and worms can carry a so-called “payload” – malicious code designed to do damage.
Trojans and Rootkits – the masked threat
Trojans and rootkits are grouped together as they both seek to conceal attacks on computers. Trojan Horses are malignant pieces of software pretending to be benign applications. Users therefore download them thinking they will get a useful piece of software and instead end up with a malware infected computer. Rootkits are different. They are a masking technique for malware, but do not contain damaging software. Rootkit techniques were invented by virus writers to conceal malware, so it could go unnoticed by antivirus detection and removal programs. Today, antivirus products, like BullGuard Internet Security, strike back as they come with effective rootkit removal tools.
Spyware and keyloggers – the financial threat
Spyware and keyloggers are malware used in malicious attacks like identity theft, phishing and social engineering - threats designed to steal money from unknowing computer users, businesses and banks.
The latest security reports for the first quarter of 2011 put Trojan infections at the top of the malware list, with more than 70% of all malicious files detected on computer systems, followed by the traditional viruses and worms.
The popularity of rogue antiviruses has been decreasing over the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, but the number of downloader Trojans significantly increased. The detection rates of new malware have increased 15% in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the last quarter of 2010.
With BullGuard Internet Security you get a package, also know as a suite, of all the security tools you need for malware protection. With BullGuard Internet Security malware removal is made easy – BullGuard Internet Security automatically does a malware scan on your computer and then works as a malware remover.
Learn more about the different kinds of malware and attacks, scams and scemes from our security articles