The last few years have brought heightened attention to the necessity of cybersecurity and important precautions to protect internet users, but unfortunately hackers seem to develop new attack strategies as fast as people catch up with the last ones. Here’s what internet users need to understand today (though who knows what new issues tomorrow will bring).
There’s a variety of types of malware (short for malicious software), which is any program that runs on a computer without a user’s knowledge and performs predetermined features that cause harm.
Adware, for example, resides on a computer without a user’s knowledge and displays pop-up advertisements. Computers effected by adware run the risk of constantly being disturbed by annoying ads
A virus is a program that is programmed to spread itself across files on a single computer or even across computers using the internet. Often computer hackers create viruses just to mess with people, or to see how far they can get it to spread before it’s contained. If the virus does spread far, it’s a source of pride and bragging rights for the creator.
A worm is like a virus but it spreads itself around a network by creating copies of itself as it spreads and might be able to change its profile to avoid detection. One of the most famous worms ever created was developed by the US and Israeli governments. They infected an Iranian nuclear power plant with the worm so that a variety of mechanical issues would slow down Iranian nuclear progress without seeming like there was any outside involvement. The point was to just make the disruptions seem like bad luck. Neither the US or Israeli government has confirmed they were responsible for the worm.
A Trojan is named for the infamous horse of Greek mythology because it takes on the appearance of something benign and, once downloaded onto your computer, enacts harm to computer by erasing your hard disk or deleting all your image files. It can also gather information and send it to its creator.
Spyware is a kind of software that secretly resides within a computer’s programs and sends information to its programmer. This information could span from browser history to passwords and login information. Often spyware just acts as a way to release pop ups onto someone’ s computer, but they can be really harmful when they’re used to hack into people’s online bank accounts.
Finally, a cookie (which doesn’t really count as malware) is a small data file used by websites to store information on your computer, whether it’s a shoppingwebsite that wants to identify items you’ve looked at or a website that you’ve given permission to store your password.
It is much more likely that these various forms of malware will gain access to your computer through your own error; this happens more often than malware somehow downloading itself onto a computer. That means that the best mode of prevention is for users to be careful and always read the EULA before downloading any program from the internet.