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An easy to understand guide to common terms for the everyday person.


What is Malware?

Malware is any attempt to install malicious code onto your computer. Often this code is used to steal your personal information or take over certain functions of your computer.  Malware is a general term which includes things like spyware, trojans, and viruses.


What is Phishing?

Phishing  is different from malware in that it doesn’t necessarily involve injecting malicious code onto your computer.  Phishing is a classification of a type of scam that fools the user into giving their personal information.

For example, phishing scams often imitate emails sent from your bank, attempting to get you to sign in via their link. That link of course is a false site designed to trick you into believing you are on the official site.  Once you sign in, they can steal your login and password. Also important to note – phishers are also skilled at faking the URL, so don’t simply assume you are on the real site because the URL looks legit!

Read this article to read about how I, the owner of antivirus site, got fooled by a phishing scam.


What is Spyware?

Spyware is a type of malware that installs itself on your system so it can track and monitor your activity while you are on your computer or mobile device.  That information is then sent back to the perpetrator so they can steal your information.  For example, spyware can be used to track your login and passwords in order to steal your credit card of banking information.  Other forms involve simply monitoring your activity so it can deliver targeted advertising.  Some spyware is used by parents to monitor their children’s online activity.


What is a Trojan?

A trojan is simply a piece of software that pretends to be something its not in order to gain access to your computer.  Typically a trojan will disguise itself as something useful, like a game, but its true purpose is to deliver malicious code, like spyware, to your computer.


What is Adware?

Adware is software that is installed on your computer, with or without your knowledge, whose purpose is to deliver ads.  Often these ads are in the form of popups.  For example, if you have ever seen offers to download a free toolbar for your computer?  Typically, these free toolbars come with adware bundled with them that will serve you targeted ads.  These ads then produce income for the toolbar owner.

Its debatable whether or not adware is considered “malware” as its only purpose is to deliver ads.  Some adware though tracks user activity in order to serve targeted advertising, which classifies the adware as spyware.


What are Worms?

A worm is a type of malware that is able to replicate itself and spread to other computers.  A worm is similiar to a virus but it does not need to “infect” an existing piece of software in order to replicate.  A worm is a standalone piece of code that replicates on its own.


What is a Virus?

A virus is a type of malware that is designed to infect software or files on your computer in order to replicate itself.  Usually a virus will also attempt some type of malicious action like deliver spyware or delete information on your hard drive.


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