In today's world, it is hard to believe that low-level code is still able to run on machines and avoid detection. The government is often defenseless and loses control over their own environment. This is the reason why as the software is evolving, developers are taking precautions and implementing security measures to ensure their newly developed products are more secure. However, it is a fact that the threat of malware is increasingly prevalent.

As technologies improve to counter these threats, the malware also has evolved to be able to infiltrate deeper into the code. Additionally, more sophisticated approaches are being taken by hackers to get malware into vulnerable systems. It is surprising to find that they even hijack software update services so that when machines are updated, instead of security patches and software updates, malware is downloaded and installed.

New attack vectors are being developed for this "social" age like an infection through social networking sites, attacks that are analogous with the past are still causing havoc in 2012. Traditional computer viruses are still secretly infecting files, causing computers to slow down and using our computers as hosts to infect sites as well as other computers and networks. This is the reason why IT experts are developing faster and more fool-proofed antivirus programs to defeat these types of malware. In fact, you can check out this detailed comparison between Bitdefender and Malwarebytes as it describes the advantages and disadvantages of the leading antivirus programs in terms of features, anti-malware protection, and impact on system speed, user interface, pricing, popularity, and customer ratings. Bitdefender has obvious advantages in terms of its comprehensive set of features, anti-malware protection, and impact on system speed, user interface, pricing, and popularity; while Malwarebytes has better customer ratings.

What is Malware?

Malware is a general term, usually used to describe the many forms of malicious software that can damage your device and its information. Notably, Viruses, Trojan horses, computer worms, spyware, rootkits, and adware are all types of malware.

Types of Malware:

Malware can be described as follows:
  1. Adware – These are programs that place advertisements on your screen through various means.
  2. Spyware - Spyware is used to gain information about you or data on your computer and redirect it to another location. Information such as your personal details, browser history, login names, and passwords and credit card numbers.
  3. Hijackers - Hijackers target internet explorer. They take control of various parts of your web browser, including your home page, search pages, and search bar. They redirect you to sites you would not go to otherwise.
  4. Toolbars - A toolbar that is installed through devious means falls into the category of malware.
  5. Dialers - A program that sets your modem up to dial to a number which incurs you with a hefty phone bill but makes someone else wealthier.
  6. Deepware - This is a malware code that runs deeper than the OS and runs like a rootkit at a very low level, mostly undetectable by common AV.

Malware Impact on your Computer

Malware, if undetected can wreak havoc in your computer’s performance. Enumerated below is a list of the impact that your malware can have on your computer:
  • Malware causes your connection to slow down
  • Malware causes your computer to slow down; badly written code can cause your computer to crash.
  • Malware can cause your computer to display error messages continually.
  • Malware could cause your computer to be incapable of shutting down or restarting as it keeps certain processes active.
  • Malware could be used for identity theft to gather personal information or data from your computer.
  • Malware can hijack your browser to redirect you to sites for its purposes.
  • Malware can infect your computer and use it as a server to broadcast various files or attacks.
  • Malware can send spam through and to your inbox.
  • Malware could send emails you did not write getting you or your company in trouble.
  • Malware can infect your computer giving an attacker control of your system and your resources, like your connection.
  • Malware can cause new and unexpected toolbars to appear.
  • Malware can cause new and unexpected icons to appear on your desktop.
  • Malware can be invisible and have no known or noticeable effect and run on your computer undetected if it's well written.

Malware Prevention

If you somehow have malware on your computer, it is best to get rid of those as soon as possible. Here are ways to prevent malware from ruining your computer, including your computer’s performance:
  1. Install Anti-Virus and Firewall Software: Anti-virus and firewall software will increase the security of your computers. Always look for anti-virus software that protects against viruses, Trojans, worms, adware, and spyware. Also, you must run the anti-virus software on a regular basis and configure the firewall properly to prevent malware infections.
  2. Keep Software and Operating Systems Up-to-Date: Make sure your software and operating systems are always up-to-date with the latest vulnerability patches. These patches are designed to fix flaws that could otherwise be exploited by cyber-criminals.
  3. Use Caution When Downloading and/or Opening Files: Cyber-criminals often create malicious files, programs, and attachments that appear to be from a familiar source. Always verify the source and use caution when downloading or opening files, programs, and attachments.
  4. Avoid Clicking On Pop-Ups: While some pop-ups can be enticing, always avoid clicking them. If you click a pop-up, malware will be installed onto your system to hijack your browser and steal personal information.

We know for a fact that the motivations behind the malware have changed over the years. If we look back at the earliest instances of malware, they were developed for playful taunting, rather than with particularly malicious intent. Things have changed significantly over the years; coders are now developing malware for a specific purpose. Malware is used for money-making or as a way to gain power through destruction or gathering of intelligence and critical information. As technologically-savvy consumers, it is our responsibility to make sure that our data is safe and protected. We must take precautionary measures to protect ourselves against malware and its consequences, by following the recommendations listed above.

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