What is The Difference between Malware, Spyware, and Viruses?

Frank  — October 5, 2018  ·  Read user reviews

Many peoples ask what’s the difference between malware, spyware, and viruses. In this article, we’ll dive into some important differences of each. Regardless, if you think you’re infected with any type of virus, be sure to run a virus scan with one of our favorite antivirus tools so you can eliminate the threat immediately.

There is so much information, content, games, videos, etc., available on the internet, but unfortunately, there are also many dark areas lurking around the corners of the internet.

One of these dark things is software created specifically to harm you or your computer, and/or steal your personal information.

If you’ve paid attention to the news, you know just how prevalent security concerns online. Technology has created—for better or worse—a world that freely shares information with the click of the button. There are bound to be those who take advantage of that.

This is why there are things like malware, spyware and viruses. But what exactly are these things and how do they affect you? It’s becoming more important for you to understand the answers to these questions so you stay safe while you browse the web or use your computer.

Let’s take a look at what each of these things are and why they matter.

Viruses: Infecting Your Computer One File at a Time

 Viruses are the general term for any kind of program that infects your computer without your consent or knowledge. Much like their namesake, viruses often replicate like wild once inside your system, destroying anything within.

Viruses can spy on you, steal your information, or even take control of your computer entirely. It can be hard to identify specific items as viruses, but you’ll soon know if your computer is infected with one. They usually affect system performance to the point of you not being able to properly use your computer. 

Malware: Out for Blood

Simply put, malware stands for malicious software. This is anything that can be downloaded and installed on a computer that aims to cause harm of some kind. There are a ton of different kinds of malware, including:

  • Ransomware, which keeps your data hostage until you pay up
  • Rootkits, which give attackers full control of your computer
  • Adware, which bombards you with ads based on your browsing history
  • Worms, which overload your system by replicating themselves within your files

Spyware: Hiding in the Dark

 Spyware is a form of malware that hides out in the less visible areas of your computer with the sole purpose of spying on you. Some spyware watches you in a traditional sense, taking over your webcam or logging your keystrokes on your keyboard. Other kinds of spyware scans your hard drive to find personal information and transmit it back to the person on the other end.

Spyware aims to be as quiet as possible because it doesn’t want to be found. While some spyware can slow down your computer at times, most of it goes by unnoticed.

How to Prevent Malware, Spyware and Viruses

Knowing that all of these malicious programs are out there trying to get into your computer is only a small part of the battle. If you don’t want to get infected, you’ll need to take steps to prevent them from ever touching your computer.

There are tons of things you can do to protect yourself and your computer from malware, spyware and viruses. Let’s take a look at some of the prevention techniques you should be using today.

  1. Use common sense online. The majority of people who unwittingly download viruses to their computers just don’t use common sense when they’re using their computers on the internet. While many viruses try to disguise themselves, many more can be identified by exercising caution. If a software download or email looks and acts differently than what you’re used to, you should be suspicious. Don’t download things from websites that aren’t trustworthy, and don’t send personal information to people you don’t recognize. These common sense tips can save you a lot of trouble in the future. If you feel suspicious of anything for any reason, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Back out of the website or close the email altogether.
  2. Practice safe browsing habits. Using common sense online is only one part of the solution on the internet. Safe browsing is something that not a lot of people think about, but it can protect you against malware almost as much as antivirus software can. When you’re online, make sure you’re using strong passwords on the sites where you have a login. You should also make sure you’re on a secure connection, as indicated by a lock icon in the URL bar, especially when you’re shopping online. Finally, once you’re done, log out of your accounts so they don’t become targets for hackers.
  3. Install antivirus software. Cyber security and protecting personal computers is a huge industry. If you don’t have an antivirus software already installed on your computer, you need to get one as soon as possible. Having a reliable antivirus software installed can prevent most viruses from affecting you at all. As you start looking at different products to purchase, don’t skimp on the research. There are lots of different choices on the market, and you’ll want to buy the one that most closely fits your needs. Check out reviews from trusted sources (Like AntivirusBasics.com) and look closely at how well the software performs from independent testers like AV Test and AV Comparatives.
  4. Check your device’s security. Installing antivirus software is only one part of protecting your computer and other devices. You’ll want to make sure you have a firewall up and running to protect your computer from malicious incoming traffic from the internet. You’ll also want to create a strong login password so no one can access your computer without your permission. Finally, you can also set a BIOS password, which adds an additional layer of protection.

Be Vigilant

Ultimatiely, don’t wait to get your computer’s security up to snuff. Every day, new malware, spyware and viruses are produced and released into the world. If you’re not ready to prevent them, you’re almost asking them to infect your computer and steal your information.

Malware, spyware and viruses can definitely cause harm in their own ways, but they can be fought and defeated with the proper care, security and vigilance.