What is the difference between Viruses, Spyware, Malware & Adware?


What are viruses? What is spyware? I get asked this fairly often and sometimes it can be difficult to understand the differences between the types of computer infections, so this will be our topic for today.

What is the difference between Viruses, Spyware, Malware & Adware?

There’s nothing worse than turning on your PC and be delightfully greeted (sarcasm) with unwanted content popping up on your monitor. No matter what you do, it won’t go away and in some cases can severely bog down a system or render it completely unusable.

For starters, I’ll list the different types of infections and then highlight measures you can take to avoid becoming a victim. There are many variations of each type and sometimes can be a combination, but here is a brief rundown of each, so you’ll have a better understanding if the worst happens.

Viruses – A virus is a self replicating program that is designed to do damage. They are potentially the most serious out of all the infections a PC can get. Once executed (opened), viruses copy themselves into other programs, data files or onto the boot sector of the hard drive itself. Viruses have the possibility to access personal information, email contact list or corrupt programs. They are installed without the knowledge or consent of the user from an infected file or by being downloaded automatically when a user accesses an infected website.

As an example of the damage a virus can do, a particularly bad virus was doing the rounds a fair few years ago, (the name of it escapes me unfortunately) what it did was on a certain day of the month it would completely erase the system’s hard drive which meant losing everything that wasn’t backed up. Not only that, it would also completely erase the motherboard BIOS chip, which effectively renders the computer useless. The only repair options were to replace the BIOS chip (if possible) or replacement of the entire motherboard and then have the system software reinstalled. Not a cheap fix by any means. Thankfully this particular virus is seldom seen nowadays.

Spyware – As the name suggests, software that spies on you or your browsing habits. Spyware collects personal information about the user which is then sent to another entity without consent. Some spyware can also give hackers the ability to access the computer remotely. There are a number of different spyware types, one example is a key logger, which can record every key press a user makes and with that information, hackers can determine usernames and passwords for websites, bank logins particularly.

Malware – Short for malicious software, malware can be thought of a collective term which can include viruses, spyware and any other combination of the above. Any software that is malicious in nature is malware.

Adware – Most often than not, adware doesn’t do any damage to a PC, but can be used as a vehicle which can allow more serious infections to occur. Adware is considered to be an irritant by many, which results in popup windows opening randomly but otherwise not causing any other issues to the computer. These popup windows can show different information and usually contain links, which if clicked on can cause more problems by allowing viruses or other malware to be installed. In recent times and the advent of online scams, much of the adware these days are used to syphon unsuspecting users of their hard earned cash, example are:

“Your computer is infected, click here, pay x amount to clean your computer” or “Your PC is running slow, click here to fix”. Of course there can by any number of variations of these, but I’m sure you get the idea. Keep in mind though, if you ever get a window which wants you to pay, more often than not, it’s a scam.

Scary isn’t it? It definitely can be. For a minimal investment, allow CKP Computers to install reputable security software as the alternative could be far more costly. In order to protect yourself it is always advisable to have current up-to-date security software which monitors your system. It’s no use having security software that’s expired or out-of-date because it’s simply not doing the job. At the very least, there are a number of free alternatives (Avast, AVG) that can be used. Having free security software, whilst not being as comprehensive as the paid for options is still far better than having nothing at all!

If you’re concerned about your system, require security software or would like more information, please contact us today on 0447 619 397 or send us an enquiry, either through our contact page, by Facebook or by email, helpme@ckpcomputers.com.au.

Posted in Educational.

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