7 Types of Malware and How They Attack Your Computer

Did you know that the first malware dates back to the 1970s, long before the internet even existed? Harmful computer codes and software were considered a prank in the early days of programming, but as our dependence on computers has grown, criminal attacks have become sophisticated and lucrative.

The term malware, short for ‘malicious software’, was first used by an early security researcher, Yisrael Radai, in the 1990s. It refers to any harmful program capable of controlling a computer, usually for the purpose of stealing sensitive information or destroying functionality. Destructive code can be hidden in any program, but today’s malware are most commonly delivered via the internet where criminals can conceal their identity more easily. Once hackers gain access to sensitive data, they use it for financial gain, or to destroy personal and professional reputation. At ReputationDefender, we help our clients safeguard their personal information with ongoing surveillance and privacy reporting. We also assist with removal and reputation rebuilding if you’ve already become a victim.

Antivirus and other software will protect against many types of malware, but hackers are constantly developing new programs and delivery techniques that will pass under the radar. Malware concealed in a harmless looking link can infect your computer almost immediately and be very difficult to get rid of.

Defining Malware

Today, there are so many different types of malware it’s hard to keep up with all the terms. These are seven of the most common malware and how they affect your computer.

  1. Viruses – just like a cold virus, a computer virus infects by reproducing, copying its source code until it can control the entire computer. This type of malware is delivered in a file attachment and it can also spread to other computers via corrupted files that you send. Today, viruses are frequently detected by antivirus software, so they are less common than they used to be.
  2. Worms – this is a ‘standalone malware’. Like a virus, a worm is self-propagating and can spread to other computers, but it infects networks rather than computer files.
  3. Trojans – like the famous story of the Trojan horse, this type of malware masquerades as a legitimate download, often an email attachment such as a routine form. Trojans don’t replicate themselves, but they do open a backdoor that will allow hackers to steal data from your computer.
  4. Ransomware – this type of malware will encrypt computer files so they are unreadable. Once the files are scrambled, the hackers will demand a ransom price in return for the key that can decrypt the data. This new type of malware has been on the rise over the past few years, with large scale attacks aimed at organisations that store a lot of valuable information, like hospitals and police networks.
  5. Spyware – this is a form of malware that will monitor your browsing activity and sometimes try to steal passwords. Spyware works similarly to adware, which is responsible for the annoying, but harmless, advertising that pops up on some websites or apps.
  6. Browser Hijackers – malware that will take over a browser, usually creating a new homepage and redirecting searches to pages you don’t want to visit.
  7. Rootkit – this is a term you’ve probably heard in relation to malware. A rootkit won’t actually harm your computer, but it will hide a virus or other malware from detection. Most major antivirus software now include rootkit removal.