Computer viruses have been around since the 1970s, but were not considered a serious Internet security threat initially. Over the next two decades, malware continued to evolve and found great success as the popularity of e-mail surged in the late 1990s. Malware is a blanket term which includes a variety of Internet security threats.
Creating an effective Internet security strategy to prevent devices from being infected with malware requires a deeper understanding of the different threats malware can present.
Internet Security Threats Considered Malware
Since the late 1990s, viruses have consistently been one of the most threatening types of malware. As with all early malware, it was primarily spread by user error. This means a user must take some kind of specific action to trigger the virus. The most common example is opening an infected e-mail attachment. While numerous technological advancements have made it less effective to send viruses via e-mail, there are still millions of victims who don’t use any Internet security software and still open unknown e-mail attachments.
Some people consider viruses and Trojans to be the same thing because they infect devices through the same methods. The important difference is the payload being delivered. Viruses pose an Internet security risk because they run malicious code on the user’s device. Trojans make it possible for third parties (hackers) to gain access to the device. This Internet security threat is increasingly dangerous because of the growing amount of personal information users store on their devices.
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Many people lump worms into the same category as a viruses. It is important to separate the two because the method of infection is unique. Unlike viruses, worms require no action on the user’s behalf in order to infect a device. Instead of hiding in an infected file, worms infect devices through network vulnerabilities.
Rootkits are designed to obtain privileged access to a device while hiding from Internet security software. Rootkits are extremely versatile because they can infect devices and reproduce in a variety of different methods. Rootkits are most often associated with spyware such as key-loggers. Unlike traditional viruses, rootkits subvert the operating system by disguising itself as a critical system file. This makes removing a rootkit much more difficult to accomplish without further damaging the operating system. Fortunately, rootkits are significantly more difficult to create than other types of malware which place it out of reach for many hackers.
Malware is primarily designed to steal personal information which criminals can profit from. Phishing is a constant Internet security threat, but unlike most malware it does not directly attacked the user’s device. Instead, the device is used to acquire personal information. Some Internet security experts use phishing as a blanket term, while others separate it into two distinct categories – phishing and pharming. Phishing redirects users to a malicious website. Pharming harvests private information by acting like a trusted business (such as an online bank).
While malware will likely always be a catchall term for various Internet security threats, it is important for users to understand the distinction between specific types of attacks. To be effective, a malware prevention Internet security strategy must contain practices which address each subset of malware.
Author Bio: Luke Atkinson informs his readers how to operate in foreign countries just as they would at home. Using the VPN for Dutch he is able to access his favorite sites from abroad. His writings educate on matters of technology and security.