Quick Hit Malware Primer: Viruses vs Malware


My objective with these blogs is to show you that you can do a lot of this yourself, and to learn what you need to stay safe. I promise – you don’t have to have a computer science degree for this.

If knowledge is power then education is key. I thought it might be helpful to run a primer-style series on what types of threats are out there, and your best defence against each. We’ll take it one at a time, bite-size learning.

So – to get started. What’s the difference between viruses and malware? Malware is the umbrella term we use to refer to a whole host of troublesome things, including viruses, that infect our devices, hack our servers, and lie in wait.  A virus is bad, but not all bad things are viruses.

virusTechnically, a virus is classified as “a self-replicating piece of malicious code that travels by inserting itself into files or programs.”  It’s a malware program that performs a harmful activity on the host it infects. It infects hosts by duplicating itself, without user consent, in files, programs or the boot sector of the hard drive. Viruses can cause a variety of problems including:

  • access your personal data
  • corrupt files and data
  • log (copy and record) keystrokes
  • send out spam to contacts.

There are a lot of anti-virus programs to choose from.  Some are free.  All are effective to varying degrees, but none will catch all the problems all the time. They can’t.  Viruses are built when hackers develop malicious code that exploits vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the code of programs, typically operating systems like Windows. These exploits are constantly evolving, so for anti-virus programs, it’s a matter of how quickly they can add that virus “signature” into their database so that the anti-virus program can detect it on future scans.

What can you do?  Always have a current and updated version of an anti-virus program running on your devices.  You can install them on phones and tablets, and you should, because these face the same risks as desktops and laptops. And contrary to popular opinion, Apple/Mac do get viruses and there are programs to protect them as well. Don’t let your licence expire so that you work on an outdated program. And – make sure you don’t ignore the prompts to update.  Those updates mean the difference between getting infected and staying safe.

Because You Own Your Own Security. Why leave it up to someone else?

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