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What's the Difference Between Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, and Other Malware?

Being a computer technician for over 10 years, I always come across this typical question. Most users tend to ask me for "viruses removal" but they have no idea what kind of stuff they got infected with. Even your Antivirus program tells you what it is, how much do you really know about viruses, spyware, scareware, trojans, and worms?

The point of today's lesson, of course, is to help you teach your friends and family more about the different types of malware, and debunk a few of the common myths about viruses. Who knows, maybe you'll learn a thing or two as well.

What is Malware?

The word Malware is short for malicious software, and is a general term used to describe all of the viruses, worms, spyware, and pretty much anything that is specifically designed to cause harm to your PC or steal your information.

What is a Virus?

A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself, and infect other computers. (it is spreadable) Most viruses attach themselves to executable files, but some can target a master boot record, autorun scripts, MS Office macros, or even in some cases, arbitrary files. The general point is that a virus is designed to damage and break stuff. You can protect yourself from viruses by making certain your antivirus application is always updated with the latest definitions and avoiding suspicious looking files coming through email or otherwise.

Spyware Steals Your Information and $$$

Spyware is any software installed on your PC that collects your information without your knowledge and send back the information to their server! Very dangerous and usually the victim does not aware of it. This could include keylogging to learn your passwords, watching your searching habits, changing out your browser home and search pages and get your confidential inforamtion such as credit card numbers.

Since spyware is primarily to steal your data, it doesn't usually kill your computer.

Scareware Holds Your PC - threaten you to buy something again and again

Scareware is a relatively new type of attack, where a user is tricked into downloading what appears to be an antivirus application, which then proceeds to tell you that your PC is infected with hundreds of viruses, and can only be cleaned if you pay for a full license. Your computer got this problem? Call us to have it removed.

Trojan Horses make a Backdoor

Trojan horses is sneaky, often the malicious code will be installed in your PC without your awareness. In many cases, trojans will create a backdoor that allows your PC to be remotely controlled, either directly or as part of a botnet. The major difference between a virus and a trojan is that trojans don't replicate themselves.