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Malware VS Viruses

People often confuse the terms “Malware” and “Virus” replacing erroneously their definitions. But in reality two words constitute different notions behind them. So what is the difference between malware and viruses? Let’s find out.

What Distinguishes Terms Malware And Virus

The term “Malware” means any type of malicious software designed to steal information, damage systems or disrupt the work of targeted networks, computers. Regardless of how they work, their intent or what are the ways of such software distribution, all malicious programs, codes that were created with the aim to do harm to server, network or computer fall into the malware category.

The term “Virus” means the particular group of malicious software with its distinctive features like the ability to self replicate or copy itself. Viruses can be malicious programs or codes. They successfully spread to other computers, servers or networks. This type of malware has steadily been on the rise since the beginning of the commercial Internet. The very first virus appeared in 1982 created specifically for the Apple II and subsequent versions followed.

How Viruses Differ From Other Types Of Malware

Viruses spread by hiding themselves within legitimate programs or files and usually get distributed via emails, flash drives, infected websites, etc. A virus only activates when a file or program is opened. Viruses can disable system functions, change in certain way applications or delete/encrypt files. Apart from this one distinctive feature there are other aspects by which viruses differentiate from other types of malware threats. And these aspects can be described as following:

  • Type of Attack. All types of viruses share the same ability to self replicate and thus infect as many targets as possible. The whole malware family includes other various types of threats like spyware, worms, trojans, keyloggers and ransomware and each of them having their own way of spreading different from the one of viruses;
  • Infection Method. Viruses more often get to be distributed via email, software, web applications, but they also can be distributed through corrupt storage devices, content downloads and infected websites;
  • Operation of Attack. Viruses usually stay dormant until the victim clicks an infected link, application or downloads a corrupt file.
    And only when it is activated virus will start doing designated malicious tasks like disabling security settings, taking control over system functions, encrypting files or deleting data. Malware in its turn firsthand tries to obtain persistent access to a system so that threat actors can have constant access to a targeted system;
  • Result of Attack. Generally with other types of malware threat actors aim to make some profit while viruses they usually use to make damages to targeted systems. Of course, threat actors may use viruses as part of global schemes like ransomware attacks.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Viruses

Although there are a lot of different kinds of viruses the three most common ones are:

  • Polymorphic virus. This particular kind of a virus changes its own code and encrypts itself every time it infects a new victim. The mechanism allows this kind of a virus to successfully evade detection by antivirus programs;
  • Macro Virus. These viruses hide within macros of Word or Excel documents that threat actors attach to spam emails or envelop them together with zipped attachments. Once tempted victim open document the virus inside immediately activates. The trick still remains popular among cybercriminals;
  • File Infectors. Maybe one of the most dangerous of viruses that can overwrite computer’s operating system and even reformat its drive. Threat actors infect with this kind of virus executable files and so the virus can spread throughout a network.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Malware

As we already said the term “Malware” means all malicious software including viruses programs and codes that are designed to do specifically assigned harmful actions against computers, networks and serves. The most common types of malware excluding viruses are the following:

  • Fileless Malware. This interesting kind of malware differs from traditional one in the aspect that it doesn’t download itself onto a computer but instead resides in computer memory. As there’s no malware signature that antivirus engines can detect, this kind of malware can safely reside inside of a security application, productivity tool or trusted utility;
  • Adware and spyware. Both kinds of malware are interrelated because both appear without the user’s primary consent. Adware bombards users with unwanted advertisements while spyware secretly collects all different kinds of information with the possibility to use it in future attacks. Spyware that collects all the information that you”ve typed in on the keyboard is called keylogger. The information stolen in such a way may vary from account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers to other valuable information;
  • Scareware. Many users around the world know what the trick lies behind this malware. It appears on your screen seemingly out of nowhere with a loud alarm or flashing images and so notifies the user that the computer has severe threats inside. Of course, they provide you with the solution. Type in your credit card information and buy an appropriate license type to get rid of this “threat”;
  • Ransomware. One of the most well known kinds of malware thanks to numerous news headlines from recent years. Ransomware encrypts your files and then demands money ransom so that you can get back an access to your files. Some particular ransomware variants not only encrypt data and demand ransom for it but they also steal valuable information. Later cybercriminals can have this additional pull to force victims pay another ransom;
  • Worms. Malware that boasts an exceptional ability to self replicate and thus quickly spread across networks infecting as many devices as possible. It finds specific vulnerabilities in the infected system to spread or disguises as a legitimate email attachment.

Antimalware And Antivirus Solutions To Prevent Virus/Other Malware Infections

To successfully detect and remove different malware and viruses including most antiviruses and antimalware programs use combinations of multiple methods to successfully counteract cyber threats:

  • Sandbox analysis. When system detects suspicious files it gets moved to secured environment and then activated gets analyzed for potential maliciousness;
  • Real-time behavioral monitoring solutions. The method will be particularly helpful when detecting fileless malware. It analyzes the behaviour of every installed application and blocks its activities if anything goes out of normal. For example, some applications suddenly started to send gigabytes of data over the network. It immediately gets blocked for further more deep analysis;
  • Heuristic analysis. With this method software will look for parts of malicious code rather than looking for the whole signature. The method allows detection of malware even if it is hidden beneath slabs of additional junk code;
  • Signature-based scanning. The most basic method of scanning that even free antimalware/antivirus software have. It relies on a database of known malware samples and its success depends on the freshness of the database.

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