Computers and computer systems are threatened every day. There are several attacks that computers may experience like viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware.
So what do all these mean, what is the difference, and how do you protect yourself?
A computer virus is a type of program that may copy itself and infect other computers on a network. The virus may harm a computer by changing boot commands or autorun scripts, or even Microsoft Office macros. The virus can be destructive and render a computer inoperable.
Malware (malicious software) is generally used to describe various threats such viruses, worms, spyware, and so on. It can be used to cause computer problems or steal information.
Spyware is a type of infection which steals information from your computer. It can include things like keyloggers which captures keyboard commands to obtain login credentials to your websites, or watch your web search habits. Spyware can get installed onto a computer without the user's knowledge, and cause your computer to run slow by adding unwanted web browser toolbars.
Adware is generally used to track your web browsing habits, display pop-up advertisements, which may entice a user to purchase software with legitimate looking information. Adware infections can cause your computer to run slow, and may capture personal information using keyloggers.
These types of infections are appearing more and more. These infections appear as a legitimate ad that may appear on your computer informing you of a possible threat, and offers a solution to fix the infection by purchasing a software license. If proceeded, the virus searches through your computer and encrypts your data files rendering your documents unusable until you pay a ransom.
Other threats exist such as trojan horses and worms. Trojan horse viruses may allow remote access to your computer or use a denial of service attack to render your computer useless. These do not replicate themselves like a virus, they are generally installed unknowingly by the user. Worm infections use the computer network to copy themselves to other computers because of a security vulnerability, causing network problems and computer problems.
So how do you protect yourself from all these threats?
These threats can be malicious to a computer through internet web browsing, email, and sharing files with other users. Be very vigilant when browsing the internet and managing your email. Do not download any email attachments or click on any links unless you are very certain where the email originated from. Verify with the sender if you are uncertain. Protect your computer with antivirus software, scan often, and keep it up-to-date. Ensure your Operating system firewall is enabled. Do not download any software from the internet unless you are 100% certain it is safe. Investigate your web browser security settings to help mitigate any possible vulnerability. Backup your sensitive documents, photos, or other files you do not want to lose to a device such as an external hard drive. Smart web browsing, vigilant email practices, and antivirus software management will help keep you safe against these various threats.