In computing is meant by malware (contraction in English malicious software, i.e., “malware”) to the different forms of software malicious whose objective is to infiltrate into a computer system and once to carry out a series of covert activities, ranging from the sabotage of the system itself, the theft of confidential data, the appropriation of its computer resources and/or the contagion of other systems that may be on the network.
This type of malicious program made its appearance during the 1980s when personal computers became popular throughout the world, and currently have their preferred means of propagation on the Internet, whether through suspicious e-mail ( Spam ), pages infected web sites, files shared online, etc.
The origin of malware and computer viruses may have been initially a joke or a game, by young programmers, unaware of its damage. However, since then, malicious software has evolved and grown in illegal uses, to the point that antivirus tools have become imperative.
According to reports from the company F-Secure, in 2007, as much malware was produced as in the previous 20 years. According to Panda Security, in 2011, 73,000 new computer threats were created per day, which exceeds the production of legal software with you grow.
According to its method of propagation, we can talk about various types of malware, such as:
- Viruses and worms ( worms ). It is software that invades the system and performs harmful actions, such as deleting the Operating System’s critical components, after having used its resources to send itself by email or by other means, thus spreading the infection.
- Hidden malware. These are harmful programs that enter the system and act on it silently without the user noticing.
- Trojans. Disguised as something harmless or beneficial, these programs invite the user to run them, and then open the door to hundreds of other malicious programs.
- Backdoors. Its name in English means “back door”, since it allows third parties access to the computer system, evading the usual controls and communication protocols.
- Drive-by downloads. Malicious pieces of software that are automatically downloaded by certain Web pages without asking the user for authorization or allowing him to stop it in time, and open the door to other forms of virtual invasion.
- Rootkits. These are techniques for modifying the Operating System’s key files to allow the malware present to remain hidden from the installed detection programs.
- Advertising malware.
- Spyware. Programs that secretly collect information from the pages visited on the Internet and used it to bombard us with spam.
- Adware. They work the same as spyware, but showing us online advertising as we browse.
- Hijackers. “Hijackers” programs that modify Internet browser settings, forcing it to start on a certain Web page or to display certain messages.
- Information hijackers.
- Keyloggers. Programs that secretly collect user passwords and send them to an anonymous requester, such as credit card numbers, etc.
- Stealers. Like keyloggers, they steal sensitive information from the user, but only what is stored on the computer.
- Dialers. Not so popular since the bulk of Internet connections are by Broadband, these programs stole the telephone signal and allowed illegal calls to be made remotely.
- Botnets. This is the name given to sets of computers that respond to third parties’ instructions remotely and secretly, allowing them to indirectly send spam or viruses, making it more difficult to trace the source.
- Ransomware. Various software forms that break into user accounts online modify the password and then ask for a ransom payment to release it.
Where does the malware come from?
We come into contact with malware in many ways, on high-traffic sites like porn networks or gambling sites, or by opening suspicious email attachments.
Most of the malware comes from China and the United States, the world’s largest software producers, or other similar nations. Occasionally these malicious programs can even come from recognized companies disguised in their products.
A famous case has been that of the “Windows Telemetry” process, which is included in the new versions of Windows, and which is capable of collecting information about user habits and secretly sending them to Microsoft, using system resources.
How to protect ourselves from malware?
The best option to protect yourself from malware is to install an antivirus and antimalware program on the computer, which must be up-to-date in their virus definitions. We must grant the necessary permissions to monitor the entry of unsolicited software into the system.
It is also useful to have the Operating System and our main applications updated since many security updates compensate for system weaknesses exploitable by these malicious programs.
And as a measure of digital hygiene, avoid installing unknown software on the machine, as well as opening suspicious emails, let alone clicking on advertisements that seem too good to be true.