Malware, or malicious software, is any program or file that is harmful to a computer user. Types of malware can include computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware. These malicious programs can perform a variety of different functions such as stealing, encrypting or deleting sensitive data, altering or hijacking core computing functions and monitoring users’ computer activity without their permission.
You may have malware if:
- Pop-up advertisements are appearing all the time
- Settings have changed and cannot be changed back to previous settings
- Your web browser has additional components that you are unaware of downloading
- Your computer seems to be running particularly slow
Phishing is a form of social engineering in which an attacker tries to trick someone into handing over sensitive information through a fraudulent request, such as a spoof email. As a strategy to obtain passwords and login credentials, phishing attacks are sometimes a precursor to a malware attack.
An exploit is a vulnerability in software that could be unlawfully used to make the software do something outside of what it was designed to do. A piece of malware might use an exploit to enter a system or to move from one part of a system to another. Many exploits rely on known vulnerabilities , counting on the fact that not all users keep their systems up to date with security patches. Less commonly, a zero day exploit takes advantage of a critical vulnerability that hasn’t been fixed by a software maintainer.