What is the difference between Malware and a Virus?

What is the difference between Malware and a Virus?

Jul 20 2022

Firstly, all viruses are Malware, but not all Malware is a virus. Confused? Let’s clear that up for you.

All Malware is malicious software that has been designed to infect and damage the host system or device. Viruses on the other hand are only one type of Malware.

Think of it like this, the DVD boxset of your favourite TV series contains 8 seasons of DVDs, the boxset itself and all its contents are a type of Malware, but only Season 3 is a virus. So even though all the DVDs in the box are the same, the contents are not.

Viruses are a type of Malware specifically designed to infect, replicate, and harm programs of its intended host or device, whereas Malware is an overall term for the software (albeit malicious in its intent) but isn’t necessarily targeted or distributed like a virus is.

What are the types of Malware?

Considering it covers ALL malicious code, there are quite a few types of Malware, including:

  • Viruses
  • Ransomware
  • Worms
  • Adware
  • Bots
  • Scareware
  • Fileless Malware

Each of these differs in nature and is designed for a specific purpose or overall outcome.

Ransomware, for example, is used to hack in and hold data hostage until a ransom is paid. Scareware on the other hand is designed to scare the user into purchasing a program such as an anti-virus program (which itself is a virus), which in turn gathers information from you like credit card details and other personal information.

What are the types of Viruses?

Breaking it down further, viruses have their own differing types, such as:

  • Macrovirus
  • File infector (.exe File)
  • Boot sector virus
  • Polymorphic Virus
  • Trojan Horses
  • Overwrite Virus
  • Web scripting Virus
  • Browser hacker… and the list goes on

A boot sector virus for example, can damage or control the sector of your drive that is exclusively responsible for directing to your operating system. Once this happens, it leaves the machine unusable. A browser hijacker is exactly that. It hijacks your browser favourites, search preferences, or change settings on your browser and then directs you to a malicious site of their choosing.

malware vs. virus

How do I know I have Malware?

The simplest way to tell you to have malware or a virus is your PC will slow down significantly. You may also notice changes to your homepage, frequent pop-ups, unknown programs on start-up, or even your PC crashing. Otherwise, you will be notified of an infection by way of a ransom demand or some other type of notification requesting immediate action.

If your only symptom is slow performance and crashing, this may be a result of a Hard drive failure and not Malware, which should be checked as soon as possible and ensure all your backups are in order.

How do I remove Malware and Viruses?

The best way to treat malware or a virus is to call an I.T professional. There are free programs around that can identify viruses and malware on your device, however, removal can be far more in-depth than running a program designed to clean.

Viruses are always evolving and mutating, much like biological viruses, therefore your best defence for virus removal is an anti-virus program designed to cut off the virus at its origin, remove the infection and even roll back the device to a time when it was not infected.

Prevention is also just as important as removal when it comes to computer viruses. Keeping passwords safe and changing them frequently, not opening unknown files without checking with the sender first (if they are known to you) and monitoring for changes in the processing speed and usability of your device are all good ways to prevent being infected.

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