A few months ago we looked at what a virus was; furthermore, we discussed how one could repair a slow computer using the best free antivirus software available online. Now most individuals believe that all malicious computer code is automatically categorized as being a virus; however, this is not exactly the case. See, viruses are a particular variant (a particular type) of malicious code whose key characteristics are executability and reproducibility. When we say that a virus is executable, we simply mean that it needs to be run by your computer in order to be considered alive. Meanwhile, when we say that a virus is reproducible, we are simply implying that it is able to make copies of itself on your computer. We here at Computer Repair Vancouver liken the computer virus to the regular human virus (this is an effective, although not entirely exact, analogy).
So if a virus is one particular variant of malicious code, then what would one call the group under which it falls? You guessed it; malware. Malware is a general term which refers to any computer program (or code) which does something without the owners consent. It may copy itself without your permission! It may steal data without your knowing! It may simply hang around in the background without you being aware of it! Each of these culprits is labeled somewhat differently; nonetheless, they are all considered some form of malware. If you want to discover how big a topic malware is, Computer Repair Vancouver recommends that you head on over to Google and type in something as simple as “malware removal” or “computer slowdown”. You are sure to come up with thousands and thousands of results!
So now that you are aware of the term malware, and what it means, you may be wondering what some of its subcategories are (in addition to the virus). Well, here is a list of the most common subcategories in addition to what they represent.
Adware: Adware is non-reproducible (it does not copy itself) computer code that shows advertisements to a user (generally without his or her consent). This form of malware is, almost always, very easy to distinguish. All you have to look for are sudden pop up ads coming out of nowhere as you partake in trivial computing tasks. Members of Computer Repair Vancouver come across adware all the time; it is a common infection type in this day and age.
Spyware: Spyware is non-reproducible (once again, it does not clone itself) code which spy’s on you. Typically it collects some form of information about a user including, but not limited to, the websites you visit and the programs you use. Spyware, much like adware, is quite common.
Trojans: A Trojan is a non-reproducible program which appears to do one thing but actually does something completely different (much like the Greek myth involving the Trojan horse).
Worms: Worms are very much like viruses except for the fact that they need not attach themselves to computer programs (like viruses must). The major problem with worms is that they can send themselves over a network without any human intervention. As a result, they can spread rather quickly. Conficker was one such pest which wreaked havoc several years ago.
Root kits: Root kits are specialty programs whose primary aim is to grab administrative access to your computer. See, an administrative account is one which, for all intents and purposes, has free reign over your system. It can change file permissions, manipulate system settings, and even invade the Microsoft Windows registry.
There you have it, the most common genres of malware out there today. From our experiences here at Computer Repair Vancouver we tend to believe that viruses, adware, and spyware are most common (although we have no hard data to back up this hypothesis). Nonetheless, each can be quite troublesome.
One of the major problems with these types of programs is that they can be difficult to identify. After all, their goal is generally to do their work in the background so as not to create any suspicion. So, how do you know if your PC has been infected? Slowness and unpredictability are a few of the tell tale signs. However, in general you need to download specialty software to be sure. Anti-malware programs are specially designed to detect and remove all types of malware; however, some do a better job than others.
We have already spent considerable time discussing the best free antivirus programs on the Internet, and we will not be rehashing that discussion. However, our next article at Computer Repair Vancouver will focus on the best free anti-malware programs (focusing less on viruses and more on the other variants). Trust us, there are a lot of good free programs out there; the hardest part, like always, is finding where they hide.