Hackers attack personal and business networks at an alarming rate. Victims most often use the term virus to describe the attacks. However, computer security experts classify most threats as malware. Despite the type, all cyber threats can cause serious harm.
Cyber Attacks Increase Annually
In 2015, hackers stole or destroyed almost half a billion files and continue to discover new computer vulnerabilities almost every week. They exploit 75 percent of those vulnerabilities on unwitting Internet users through commandeered websites.
In the same year, businesses experienced a 55 percent increase in security breaches, and a single virus protection firm reported 100 million information theft attempts via technical support ruses. When these attacks succeed, hacking victims often find themselves left with damaged computers.
Why the Confusion?
Differentiating between malware and viruses is sometimes difficult because computer attacks share similar characteristics. As Internet users grow more cautious, hackers find new and complex ways to find and attack victims. Affected computers may show several symptoms, such as:
• Unwanted pop-up advertising
• Sluggish operation and startup
• Unexplained crashes
• Disappearing files
• Numerous error message
Hackers attack all device types including desktops, laptops, tablets and cellular devices using several methods that computer experts classify in different ways.
Malware is a technical term combining the words malicious software. This includes several software attack classifications, including viruses. Other cyber threats include Trojan horses, worms and spyware. Hackers sometimes use one method to introduce other cyber threats. Different threats affect computer systems with variable impact. As a rule, if an unsolicited virus warning pops up on the screen, do not follow the instructions.
One thing the programs share is the intention to harm computer systems and ultimately the users. Some threats spy on users’ activities to discover sensitive information, while others mine unique identifiers to sell to rouge businesses. Other programs hijack computers and instruct them to perform illegal acts without the owner’s consent or knowledge. Once hijacked computers complete the tasks, they are often severely crippled.
Internet security experts classify malware threats in several ways.
Worms attack computers by jumping from network to network without human input and damaging each infected network.
Spyware observes user activity and may change system security settings.
Ransomware locks down a user’s computer and demands payment to free the system.
Hackers use bots – originally intended to gather information for legitimate purposes – to execute illicit commands on hijacked computers, which can include other malware or a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. DDoS attacks employ many hijacked computers to query a single web page at once and disrupt service.
Hackers also use rootkits – intended to allow computer support technicians remote access – to covertly enter systems and deploy other malware.
What about Viruses?
Viruses are a type of malware that infects multiple files on a user’s computer. They jump to other computers and networks via email or removable storage media. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) credits a pair of software retailers for creating the first official virus to curtail illegal software duplication, which went on to spread exponentially as users shared the stolen software. According to Technopedia, hackers began to exploit viruses for their entertainment, then later moved on to hijacking computers for other, more illicit, reasons.
These malicious programs operate invisibly on unsuspecting computer users’ mcahines. Once installed, the programs duplicate, corrupt data and destroy files. This continues until the computer can no longer process the many programs and freezes. Due to viruses’ long history and devastating impact, victims commonly use the term as a catchall phrase to describe computer attacks, while the term malware has only recently grown popular as more software vendors advertise the term. Viruses are malware, but all malware are not necessarily viruses.
Computer attacks, frequently labeled viruses, are increasingly crippling important systems around the world. Yet, hackers deploy several kinds of computer threats. Identifying the attack method is the first step to recovering a damaged system. It is also important to know how to recover a damaged system without causing more harm and possibly losing data forever. If your computer is functioning poorly, you may have contracted malware.
Contact Patient Computer Help today to schedule a support session and return your computer or network to optimum performance.
We have recently begun recommending and installing Emsisoft Anti-Malware/Anti-Virus. It is a great program that does its job without slowing down your computer. Our preferred method to install it is with Kabuto, which gives us remote-monitoring of your Emsisoft’s performance, as well as other health-check items on your computer itself. Call us if we can help.