When it comes to threats to your home or business computers, the threats can come in several different forms. Be they viruses, malware or simply a piece of unpatched software, all of these could mean disaster for your computer system. However, all of these threats are not the same.
A virus is a piece of code that attaches itself to an existing program, in order to propagate itself to other computers and cause other types of damage. Malware is a piece of software that is intent on harming your computer or stealing data. Unpatched software is simply a piece of non-malicious software that has a vulnerability in it, allowing viruses or other users to harvest data from your computer.
Although the end result of each of these threats is often the same, damage to your computer and the theft of sensitive data, they are different in many areas. These differences mean that you need to take a unique approach when dealing with each threat.
- These threats all do different things to your system in order to access your data. Viruses tend to hide in the background of your system, not making themselves known to you while they work. Malware on the other hand, is often “in your face” about having hijacked your system. A common form of malware is one that will bring pop-up windows onto your screen that you cannot get rid of unless you pay to do so. Software exploits not fixed by security patches can allow other people access into your system to steal data without leaving a trace behind on your computer.
- Each computer threat involves a different mode of infection. Viruses most often spread through infected.exe files. These are often downloaded by the user from shady websites, or received in an email from another person who has been infected. Malware is almost always downloaded by the user under the guises of another program. Someone will think they are downloading one thing, but in fact they end up with malware. Unpatched software simply comes from not keeping your software up to date with the latest security patches available.
- Viruses tend to spread themselves by hijacking your email or social media accounts and sending themselves to people in your contacts list. Malware and software exploits require user action to spread, as they both need the user to either download a program or not patch their software.
- Viruses are more common than malware these days, due to the fact that they can spread themselves without any interaction from the user. Unpatched software is the most prevalent threat however, since many computer users fail to patch their software.
- While malware can be the most annoying of the threats, they are all equally dangerous when it comes to losing sensitive personal and financial data.
- Malware and viruses can be removed from your system using antivirus software. Within hours of a newvirus appearing on the web, there is often an update for all popular antivirus programs to combat it. To fix a software exploit, you must install a security patch for that piece of software.
- By using antivirus software and running it on a regular basis, you can protect yourself from malware and computer viruses. You must also be careful when downloading programs from the Internet, making sure to only download from trusted and verified sources. To protect yourself from unpatched software exploits,you must have a solid patch management plan in place. Check for new security patches often, and install them as they come out.
While there are many different threats to your computer system out there today, by understanding the differences in how they work, you can begin to protect yourself from them