Nittany Link Technology Blog

What are Viruses, Spyware, and Malware, and what are the differences?

Nov 19

Tuesday, November 19, 2013  RssIcon

Today there are many different terms for the various threats computer users face. Each of these affects users in different ways.

Almost every time we help clients with a virus or malware issue we typically get asked how did it happen, or what did I do wrong. More often than not, nothing was done wrong. Hackers who develop these forms of malicious code continually find new and innovative ways to distribute their creations. Knowing the difference in the types of malicious code can help protect you from getting infected.


A virus is a program that runs either when a user runs it or is run when the system is started.

Viruses in the past would often have destructive payloads that would damage your system or delete your files, these days viruses are usually used to stealing your personal information or performing attacks on major websites.


These are similar to viruses except a worm does not require user interaction. A worm copies itself from one system to another usually through system vulnerability and launches itself. This is where keeping up to date with system patches is crucial. System updates don't just mean Microsoft Windows Updates but Word, Excel, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player, Java, and any other application used on your system.


Trojans received this name from how they work. They fool users into running them by hiding in useful applications the same way the Greeks fooled the city of Troy with their Trojan horse. To help protect your system from being infected with a Trojan virus its best to only download software from trusted sources.


Rootkits are often used with viruses. They are used to hide the infected software from your system and antivirus programs.


Bot's are usually not malicious to the system they infect. A bot will run a small program on your system that will allow others who control the bot to use your system to harm others or to replicate itself. A cousin of the Bot is a Dropper.


Since a dropper program is not a virus it can easily be missed by your antivirus software. These programs are used to funnel other viruses onto your computer. If your computer is infected with multiple viruses at one time it is likely the original virus/worm installed a dropper onto your system.


Ransomware is what it sounds like, a virus that infects your computer and encrypts all your personal files. Once the encryption is complete it alerts you that your files are under the control of the hacker and demands that you pay them to get them back. These types of attacks are less common, and can be protected against by having a solid backup plan.


These are usual viruses that look like fake antivirus programs that tell you your computer is infected. They then tell you that they can fix these issues if you buy their program. Once you pay them, the cooks have your system and your credit card. It's best never to enter your credit card into these systems. If you feel that your system is compromised, call Nittany Link and let us help you out.


Malware is a broad term that includes all these types of viruses or any code that performs a malicious or unintended act.

More often than not these forms of malware will work together to infect your system. So a worm can install a dropper, which installs a Trojan, that hides itself with a rootkit. So your system has 4 types of malware installed with no user interaction.

The best way to protect yourself is by keeping all of your systems' software path and deploying a reputable antivirus/anti-malware software.

If you would like to know more feel free to contact us at 717-737-8848, we will be glad to help you protect your network and systems.

Categories: Security


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