The latest attack of a worldwide malware, the already famous WannCrypt, has not only made clear the security of hundreds of companies in the world but also how much we sometimes get involved in handling the terminology of these threats. Is a virus the same as a malware? And what is a ransomware and how is it different from other threats?
In general, we always call this a computer virus and that's it. But today we will go a little further and we will explain what is the meaning of terms such as malware, viruses, worms, spyware, Trojans, ransomware, and so on.
What is a malware
Let's start with Malware. The word malware is the term resulting from the union of the words 'malicious software' or malicious software. Malware is a type of software that aims to infiltrate or damage a computer or information system without the consent of its owner.
Therefore, malware is the main term used to talk about all computer threats. Within this category, we already have different classifications more specific for threats, such as Trojans, worms, computer viruses, adware, spyware or ransomware among others.
However, all the programs that can expose your data are not malware. We have to distinguish it from the defective software, which are those programs that are not designed with bad intentions, but that have certain errors within their code because of which your information may be exposed or your system becomes vulnerable to certain dangers.
What is a computer virus
A computer virus is a type of malware whose objective is to alter the correct functioning of a device. It does this by infecting the files of a computer through malicious code, and its main characteristic is that it needs the intervention of the user to be executed. The moment in which takes control with the aim of infecting a computer and spread.
Although the first computer virus appeared in 1971, it was not until the 1980s that the term was officially adopted. This name is due to its resemblance to the biological viruses that infect a cell, and this, in turn, spreads the virus to the rest of the cells of an organism.
There are different types of virus, from those that are simple jokes made with the sole function of annoying others that can seriously damage your computer by deleting files that directly affect its operation. In any of the cases, their common point is that everyone modifies the normal behavior of a computer.
In general, viruses are totally transparent. They do not hide, but tend to travel within executable files such as Windows .exe. Of course, they can do it with the names of other applications in an attempt to trick you and try to run the program.
The computer worm is another one of the most common types of malware in the network, and its main difference with computer viruses is that it does not require user intervention or the modification of any existing file to infect a computer. For the rest, it has the characteristic of replicating itself to expand through the networks to which a device is connected.
When it manages to penetrate a computer, the worm tries to obtain the addresses of other computers through your contact lists to send them their copies and try to infect them as well. They do not have to manipulate any program or make the computer work improperly, which makes them a little harder to detect.
To do so, it is recommended that you review resources that you may be consuming, such as RAM, something that will make ordinary tasks excessively slow. If you have one, you may also see that your team has sent messages without your permission via email or social networks.
In terms of their use, today these worms are often used for example to create botnets. They are networks of zombie computers that can act simultaneously when an operator gives the order to send SPAM in bulk, spread malware or launch different types of attacks, DDoS attacks or denial of service.
What is a Trojan
The Trojan has some similarities with computer viruses, but its operation is not exactly the same. While a virus is usually destructive, a Trojan tries to pass unnoticed while accessing your device with the intention of executing hidden actions with which to open a backdoor so that other malicious programs can access it.
However, one of the common points between several types of malware is that Trojans will also come to you disguised as legitimate files. They will do it with executables that apparently will not do anything wrong when they are used, but they will immediately start working behind your back without you noticing.
Its name is that of the mythical Trojan Horse of Homer's Odyssey, which the story says was used to deceive the defenders of Troy. In the same way, this malware enters your camouflaged computer as a legitimate program, and once inside it makes a gap between your defenses so that other programs or types of malware have where to enter.
Unlike the computer worms of which we have spoken, the Trojans do not propagate themselves. You can get infected with one when you receive it deliberately, but they also tend to swarm in P2P networks or other websites with seemingly harmless executable applications. They are often used, among other things, to steal information without your consent through that back door.
What is a spyware
It is another type of program that is installed on your computer by itself or through the interaction of a second application that launches it without you noticing. They usually work in secret trying to hide their trail so you do not raise your guard and act normally.
Its purpose is to collect information about the user or organization that owns a computer in an unauthorized manner. So that they are not detected, these programs monitor and collect data about the actions performed on a computer, the contents of the hard disk, the installed applications or everything they do on the Internet. They can also get to install other applications.
What is Adware?
Adware is a type of program quite controversial and difficult to catalog. Some consider it a class of spyware, while others say it can not even be considered a malware because its final intention is not to damage main computers.
Its only mission is to get into your computer and start showing you publicity, either while you are surfing the internet, in the form of popup at random times or during the execution of a program. Some even limit themselves to substituting the advertising of a website for another one with which its creators can obtain benefits.
In general, this type of software is usually installed in programs that are later disseminated free as a source of income for its creators. The reason why some people consider them spyware is that some of them can collect and send your personal data.
What is Ransomware
And finally, we have the ransomware. Ransom means to rescue, and in fact what it does is to hijack the data of a computer and ask for an economic rescue in exchange for releasing it. Normally, what you do is encrypt your data, and what they offer you in exchange for the economic rescue is the key to deciphering them.
This type of programs can access your computer on the back of a computer worm or other type of malware, and once you encrypt your data it will block your computer showing you a warning screen in which you are informed that you have been a victim of the attack. In this screen, you are also shown the amount to be paid and the payment method, which can be by SMS, Paypal or by bitcoins.
It is one of the threats that is growing in recent years, so it is important to have your computer always updated and follow a series of precautions when dealing with suspicious emails or messages, always avoiding installing anything that you send by mail people you do not know.
Another advice in which almost all computer security experts agreed to is that you have to try to never pay the ransom that is asked of you. By doing so, you allow the criminals to get away with it, and you encourage them to continue resorting to this type of program. The easiest method of compiling it is to always have updated backup copies of your databases and format the affected computers, recovering them later with these copies.
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