Home computing has become ubiquitous in our society. Once the domain of “nerds,” the technology has advanced to provide a much more user-friendly machine that can be a source of entertainment for the whole family. However, many people connect their computer to the Internet, turn the machine on, and go on their merry way without giving a thought to the dangers lurking in cyberspace.
Malware is the term that describes any software placed onto a computer without the owner’s (or user’s) knowledge or permission. Malware can be as simple as a prank that places a line of text inside some of the computer’s coding, to intrusive programs that cause damage to millions of computers around the world, the work of professional cybercriminals.
For the most part, malware is placed onto computers through vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are weak points or errors in operating system or application software that allow cybercriminals gain access into the machine. The most common mode of travel for malware is through open broadband Internet connections.
The growth of broadband Internet access has made computers much more vulnerable to malware attacks. When dial-up Internet access was the only way to connect, most people would only be online for a few minutes at a time, and then would disconnect their computer from the Internet for a long period of time by simply “hanging up.” Now, with broadband Internet access, computers are always connected, giving cybercriminals access even when a computer isn’t on.
The different types of malware can be broken down into several categories. Some types of malware need the target to actively accept the malware and execute it. Other types are active attacks that come from cybercriminals who are scanning network for vulnerabilities. Some malware attacks are passive, with hackers lying in wait on Web sites.
Here is an overview of several of the different types of malware:
Infectious malware is usually more of an annoyance than an attack that can cause identity theft or a profitable outcome. However, they can be the first attack that can open the door for more vicious attacks because it lets other cybercriminals know that the computer has a vulnerability. They can also do a severe amount of damage, so much so that the computer won’t work anymore.
While infectious software looks to break through vulnerabilities in operating system software, Web threat malware looks to break through vulnerabilities in applications, such as Web browsers and instant messaging programs. These are generally programs that look to steal information from the target or to make profit for the cybercriminal.
As the name implies, concealment malware are malicious attacks that try to hide illegal activity in one form or another.
In general, there are a couple of ways of combating malware. Having high quality, subscription based software such as Norton 360 can protect against all of these different types of malware threats. Making sure all software, including application and operating system, is up to date with the latest patches can close vulnerabilities. Also, making sure all users of a computer are aware of how threats can travel onto a computer, such as through attachments in e-mails, can help prevent malware attacks.