What is malware? Definition and examples

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Image: Adapted from Pixabay.

Malware is software that has been designed to damage or disrupt a computer system. Some malware gains unauthorized access to a computer system. The term is portmanteau (blend words) of MALicious and softWARE.

Spyware, Trojans, and viruses are different types of malware. Any piece of software whose author created to do harm to data, devices, or people is an example of malware.

Malwarebytes.com has the following definition of the term:

“Malware, or “malicious software,” is an umbrella term that describes any malicious program or code that is harmful to systems.”

“Hostile, intrusive, and intentionally nasty, malware seeks to invade, damage, or disable computers, computer systems, networks, tablets, and mobile devices, often by taking partial control over a device’s operations. Like the human flu, it interferes with normal functioning.”

Software refers to instructions and codes, i.e., computer programs, that make it possible to use a computer. Software contrasts with hardware, i.e., the physical parts of a device.

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Image: Adapted from Pixabay.

Malware – deliberate malice

Malware is not the same as a ‘bug in the system.’ A bug can be there unintentionally, but not malware. It is specifically software that has been deliberately designed to cause damage to a computer network, server, client, or computer.

It starts damaging after it has gained access to a target computer or computer system. Typically, it takes the form of executable code, active content, scripts, and other software.

We refer to the code as ranswomware, adware, spyware, Trojan horses, worms, scareware, or viruses.

According to Wikipedia:

“Malware has a malicious intent, acting against the interest of the computer user—and so does not include software that causes unintentional harm due to some deficiency, which is typically described as a software bug.

Respectable companies sometimes supply malware

We sometimes refer to software that respectable companies supply secretly against the interests of the computer user as malware. Sony silently installed a rootkit on computers via its music compact disks. The intention was to prevent illegal copying.

However, Sony’s software also reported users’ listening habits and created extra security vulnerabilities. Even though the vulnerabilities were unintentional, computer scientists and legal experts describe the software as malware.

Antivirus ProtectionPrevention

The best way to protect against malicious software is to prevent it from gaining access to a target computer. The following measures help protect your computer and computer systems:

  • Never open attached documents in your emails if you don’t know where they are from.
  • Even if the attachments are from colleagues, reliable work acquaintances, friends, or family members, you are still vulnerable. Having a good antivirus software is necessary.
  • Effective firewalls make it much harder for malware to gain access to your computer. All computer systems have a firewall. Make sure you ‘enable’ yours.
  • Regularly update your software.
  • Back up your computer. You can back up your files and data in an external hard drive, an online backup service, or cloud storage.
  • Strong passwords are a must. They should contain a mix of letter, symbols and numbers. Avoid using the same password for everything.
  • Use a pop-up blocker.