In today’s world, most occasional, as well as frequent computer users have heard about terms like malware, viruses and ransomware – it’s been on the news quite often lately.
Many people consider these threats the same thing, but that’s a wrong assumption.
In this guide, I’ll explain what malware, a virus and ransomware is, as well as the difference between these three terms. To wrap it up, I’ll provide some essential security steps in order to avoid these threats, and to protect yourself against it.
What is Malware?
Malware is a shorthand for the term malicious software. The software designed to infect systems, networks and devices with harmful software.
In fact, malware is a term widely used to describe any type of software that poses a threat. For example, software such as Trojans, spyware, adware, backdoors, rootkits and worms all fall under the term “malware.” However, most of these types of malware have a different function and designed to accomplish a different goal.
Recently, a rapidly-rising and highly advanced type of malware is ransomware. Forbes published a report by SonicWall that stated ransomware attacks grew at an insane rate to 638 million attacks in 2016, which is 167 times more than in 2015.
In the section “What is Ransomware” I’ll explain what ransomware exactly is and what it does.
Most Common Types of Malware:
- Unsafe Apps
- Unwanted Apps
- Email Worms
I won’t discuss every type of malware in listed above but you can Google the terms for some short insight if you like.
What is a Virus?
A virus is a specific type of malicious software. SearchSecurity defines it as follows:
“A computer virus is malicious code that replicates by copying itself to another program, computer boot sector or document and changes how a computer works. The virus requires someone to knowingly or unknowingly spread the infection without the knowledge or permission of a user or system administrator.”
A virus can spread by opening an email attachment which then opens or download an executable file infected with harmful software. Also, infected websites or infected website advertisements can spread a virus.
The most harmful situation is when a system host is infected with a virus and infects every other system that connects with the host.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a very advanced and relatively new type of malware. Ransomware is designed to completely lock down important files or an entire computer system. The only way to access the locked files again is to pay the “ransom.”
In many cases, the creators of the ransomware demand a payment in Bitcoin. One of the latest and most famous ransomware attacks is WannaCry. Symantec reported that WannaCry demanded a payment of $300 in Bitcoin, to be paid within 3 days, or $600, to be paid within 7 days. If you don’t accept the ransom, it would be impossible to access the locked files ever again after the three or seven days period expired.
If you agree to pay the ransom, you’ll receive a decryption key which is required to decrypt the previously encrypted (locked) files. Only with the key the hackers provide, you can unlock the files.
What’s the Difference?
We’ve learned that “malware” is a collective term for any type of software with the intend to cause harm to a target. That means that malware could be any kind of software program, be that ransomware, a virus or any other type of malicious software listed in the “Common Types of Malware” section.
The major difference between ransomware and a virus is that both types of malware have very different symptoms and outcomes.
Symptoms of ransomware infected systems is that you can’t use the infected computer any longer, since the ransomware pop-up may block the entire system of a computer – that’s all you see and nothing you can do about it.
Whereas a virus drastically slows down your computer’s performance, the computer fails to load or respond properly and shows significantly disruptive behavior once you’re online.
How to Protect Yourself Against Malware, Viruses and Ransomware?
There are various steps you can take in order to protect yourself against malware threats. I’ve listed them below:
Install a good antivirus software tool like BitDefender, Norton or Kaspersky to protect yourself against the latest known threats. Antivirus companies constantly update their tools and patch out the newest exploits and viruses to protect the users.
Install sophisticated anti-malware tools like Malwarebytes or HitmanPro that runs alongside your antivirus to offer extra protection against specific types of malware. In case your antivirus fails to detect a specific type of malware, you can rely on the anti-malware software.
- Automatic Updates
It’s essential to update your system and software at all times. Preferably enable “automatic updates” for every important software and antivirus/malware tool on your device.
- Unsecured Wi-Fi
Avoid connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks in public. It is easy for hackers to intercept these networks and transmit malicious data. Consider investing in a cheap VPN if you find yourself often connecting to public Wi-Fi.
- Regular System Scans
Set a standard date to have the antivirus and anti-malware run a full system scan. Once every two weeks is an acceptable schedule.
- Phishing Emails & Unknown Links
Don’t ever open or click on any files in (potential) phishing emails. If you’re not sure whether it’s a legit email, it’s safest to simply delete the email.
Bill here from PixelPrivacy.com. My blog is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. I pride myself in writing guides that I’m certain even my own mom could read! Be sure to head over to my blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!
Thanks for reading and I hope this Blog post helps YOU with YOUR IT/Computer issues!
YOUR GAL FRIDAY,