Symptoms like unexpected popups, slow start-up times, the presence of unknown applications and blue-screen shutdowns can all indicate that your computer has been infected with malware. Short for malicious software, the term “malware” describes any software that’s designed to disrupt the normal way your computer operates or to gather sensitive information from your machine. Sometimes also referred to as “badware”, it’s an umbrella term for adware, spyware, viruses and ransomware.
Knowing the different types of malware can help you secure your computer against the various threats and respond appropriately if your computer is infected.
Adware is software that forces advertising on users. These days, we’re used to product placement ads in everything from movies to music videos. However, adware can go over the top. When adverts appear only on the interface of the relevant software, they’re harmless enough – but when pop-up advertisements start appearing even when the software isn’t in use, you know you’ve been infected by adware.
Ransomware is a type of malware that holds your data hostage. Sometimes it affects just selected parts of the victim’s hard drive. In more serious cases, overall access to the machine is restricted, with a message telling the user to pay the creator of the malware a specified amount to regain access. Sometimes even if the payment is made, normal access isn’t restored. Initially common in Russia, the use of ransomware has now spread worldwide. McAfee security software vendor released a report in June 2013 indicating over 250,000 unique samples of ransomware.
Riskware is software that presents a possible, but not definite, risk to your computer and data. Relatively normal programs, such as chat clients and remote administration programs, fall into the category of riskware because they’re easily modified by intruders for malicious purposes.
Spyware is software that gathers information from your computer without your knowledge or consent. The most common form of spyware collects information about your web-surfing activities so that third-party entities can choose which pop-up advertisements to display on your screen.
With so many potential threats, it’s essential to protect your system and data. This applies especially if you’re running a business from your computer or a network. The best security software suites provide a complete blanket of protection against all types of malware and viruses. Speak with IT consultants near you to make an informed choice, based on your needs.