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What is malware? The complete tech guide

Rahul Bhagat
Rahul Bhagat
Rahul Bhagat is a Digital Marketer and strategist with more than 7 years of experience in Marketing, SEO, Analytics, Marketing Automation and more.

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Billions of malware attacks are carried out each year. These attacks target both businesses and individuals and can cause serious financial damage to those that become infected.

If you’ve been using a computer for a while, you’ve probably heard the term malware. What is malware though? What exactly is its intention and how can you avoid coming in contact with it?

Those questions and others are among the topics we’ll be covering in this post that explores how malware works and what you can do to curb its efficacy.

Keep reading to start protecting your digital devices and financial security.

What is malware?

Malware is a broad term that’s used to describe a variety of negative protocols bad actors attempt to place on computers and networks. Malware is a short-handed combination of two words, “malicious” and “software”.

Those terms do a good job of making clear the foundation of what the various types of malware have in common. They’re malicious and exist in the form of code.

When did malware first become a problem?

There’s no way to know for sure when malware started circulating. The first recorded malware issue that reached ubiquity was the “Creeper Worm”. This malware came about in the 1970s.

Creeper was released with the intent of infecting the Digital Equipment Corporation through ARPANET, an “intranet” the company’s machines used to interface with one another.

What kinds of malware exist?

Several types of malware go about claiming victims in several different ways. Knowing what kinds of exploits malware uses to achieve its goals can help you better protect against its intent.

Below, we highlight a few of the most common iterations of malware that we’re seeing circulate.


Viruses and malware are two terms that are used interchangeably in several circles, albeit, incorrectly. Viruses are just one form of malware that has happened to become the most common.

A virus usually lives in an executable file (a computer program or app). When users download that program onto their machines and open them, the virus is released and can then cause serious damage to systems.

Virus executable files can be hard to spot since most will disguise themselves as helpful applications to entice people to download and run them.


Spyware is similar to viruses in how they’re distributed and turned loose. What’s different is their end goal.

Spyware doesn’t want to damage your computer hardware as it has a vested interest in you carrying on with your daily tasks. It instead tries to hide in the background of your machine and record keystrokes so it can communicate your passwords, credit card numbers, etc. to remote hackers.


Worms got their name from the fact that their goal is to infect computers that are connected to a network. For example, if a worm lands on someone’s work computer, that worm will then seek internet/intranet access to infect other computers connected that are linked up.

The end goal of worms vary.


Just like the stories you’ve heard about the Trojan Horse, Trojans enter machines disguised as some other type of application. This malware isn’t interested in causing any damage to your computer directly but instead, is put in place to hold the door open for other destructive programs that want to cause more serious trouble.

As an example, a Trojan program might search your computer for malware files you haven’t run yet and activate them.


Ransomware is a type of malware we’ve been seeing rise in popularity. This malware locks computers and whole networks. It then demands large sums of money be paid to its creator in exchange for an access key that will make the ransomware go away.

In several cases, if people don’t pay to release ransomware, the malware’s creator will publish sensitive data online.

Does malware only affect small entities?

There’s a perception that malware can only hurt individuals and small businesses because large businesses have the resources to protect themselves. That’s not true.

Whether you’re looking at major universities or major companies, every year organizations that are well-endowed and capable of being proactive in the fight against malware fall victim to attacks. That should put into perspective how dangerous malware can be and why you need to make protection a priority.

What can you do to protect yourself?

If you’re an individual, start protecting yourself by downloading reputable malware protection software. Then, start practicing smart browsing behaviors like not clicking on links in odd emails and not downloading programs from foreign websites.

As a business, do all of that and invest in employee training so they can have their what is malware questions answered and will be able to more confidently navigate through today’s digital age.

Your what is malware questions – answered

People all across the world have asked themselves at some point or another, “What is malware?” Knowing the answer to that question can give you a valuable edge against bad actors that mean to cause you stress and financial harm.

Now that you’ve been briefed on malware and its various iterations, we implore you to take action by, again, downloading protective software and using your computer more consciously.

All it takes is one slip up to lose your private information or your business.

There’s a lot to know about safe computer usage. If you’d like to dive deeper into the topic, we welcome you to browse more related content on our blog.


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