What is malware and how dangerous is it?

Definition of Malware
Nowadays we often hear about malware and we immediately think of the old computer viruses that hit PCs, wherein the worst case a program no longer started or some strange window appeared to close.
Nothing could be more wrong: Cybercriminals have evolved together with technology and can, with the help of well-conceived malware, take control of any device: from the classic computer to the personal smartphone or tablet and even infect the Smart TV in the living room!
Let’s see together what malware is and when it can be dangerous for our devices and the data stored within it (much more vulnerable than people think).READ ALSO: What is the Antivirus used for and when it is not enough

Is malware dangerous?

By reading all the chapters of this guide we will know the origin of the malware name, we will find out what kind of threats are hidden behind this name, which devices can be affected, and what we can do to counter or remove them.

What does malware mean?

The word malware is an acronym for “Malicious Software”, ie malicious software, and identifies under its word a whole series of threats that can affect our computer or portable devices.

While once the terms viruses and trojans were used to identify the biggest threats that could be caught on the computer, today it is more correct to speak of malware for any program, process, or app with malicious purposes or that hides a malicious component within it.
It is no coincidence that in most cases antivirus is also known as antimalware or have an antimalware component to strengthen the defenses against all modern threats; this does not mean that it cannot have a life of its own, since there are excellent antimalware on the market to be installed alongside the classic antivirus.

Types of malware

Malware is constantly evolving and being updated in order to hit as many people as possible, often without even the unfortunate even noticing! The most common threats currently are:

  • Ransomware: This malware lock your PC and takes our personal documents hostage, demanding the payment of a ransom in order not to lose everything. This malware is very dangerous and potentially devastating to our files and our money (to shell out if we have no other choice).
  • Trojan: This type of malware exploits bugs and system vulnerabilities to take complete control of the device from malicious people. This malware is also very dangerous and risks turning our computer into a zombie under the control of malicious people (Botnets).
  • Spyware: This malware┬áis silent and invisible and works to steal our personal data, including credit card information. This malware can potentially become devastating to our savings.
  • Cryptominer: This malware hide in web pages or in modified links to create new cryptocurrency (mining), taking advantage of the resources of our computer (especially if we have a powerful video card). In this case, the danger is mainly due to the conspicuous slowdown of the computer, since the resources are all drained by the crypto miner.

In the past, viruses and worms were very widespread, although these days they are no longer used as single malware their characteristics are integrated into other malware (we can find Trojans that spread like worms for example).

How and where malware hits

Currently, there is no device that does not boast at least one piece of malware in circulation: in fact, the bad guys who create malware follow very “fashions” and everything that is well spread is at risk of malware.
The platforms where it is possible to catch malware are:

  • Windows
  • Android
  • iOS / iPadOS
  • macOS
  • Android TV
  • Android Auto
  • Some proprietary systems for Smart TVs

There is also some malware for GNU / Linux, but the low distribution of distributions and the inherent resistance of Linux keeps it safe from practically any recent threats.

But how can we catch malware? Classic methods such as infected links and emails have given way to far more innovative methods of spreading threats:

  • An infected audio voice note: with this method, we receive a voice note from another WhatsApp contact; when we open it we will not hear anything but the malware will already be started and ready to strike (as well as spreading by itself to all other contacts).
  • An infected image: we open an image received from social networks or via chat and the malware will open together with the image, infecting the device.
  • An advertising window to close: an old but still very effective method; we will see one or more advertising windows open on the page we are visiting and closing them will infect our PC or smartphone.
  • Codes hidden on the web pages is the most subtle and difficult method of inoculation to intercept since it is enough to simply open the web page in the browser to start loading and starting the malware, infecting our system.

Whenever we receive a link, an image, or a voice note we will have to be very careful, as they could hide an invisible threat.

How to defend against malware

To defend against all these threats, all that remains is to install a good antivirus with an antimalware component, so that we can protect ourselves in the event of an attack and delete any malware already present in the system.

If we are looking for a complete solution that can protect us from malware on any device, we recommend the products Avast, available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iPhone / iPad.

The free version of this powerful antimalware will effectively protect you from all kinds of malware seen in the guide and from the latest inoculation methods, so you can browse and open links and multimedia content without fear.

If we are looking for another excellent antimalware able to protect us at 360 degrees, we recommend the Kaspersky products, available for Windows, Android, and iPhone / iPad.

Again the free versions will offer the protection we are looking for against all types of malware, using one of the most advanced scanning engines and heuristic modules (useful for intercepting new unknown threats).

To learn about other effective and free anti-malware, we invite you to read our guides Best Free Antivirus for PC is Best free antivirus for Android.

Conclusions

If we are looking for an answer to the question “is malware dangerous?” the answer is undoubted yes, whatever the type of threat that hit us: in most cases we will have problems using applications, accessing some functions of our device and, in the worst cases, we will suffer a loss of money or theft of our identity.

If we have been infected with malware, do not panic: we can still intervene effectively by reading the suggestions proposed in our articles How to remove malware and viruses from an infected computer is Detect and remove spyware or malware on Android.

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