Difference between malware, viruses, ransomware, worms, virus hoax and trojans?

Difference between malware, viruses, ransomware, worms, virus hoax and trojans?

Malware, virus, ransomware, worms, Trojan etc are virus-related terms. Knowing about them helps you to identify situations where you think your computer is infected when it is not.

Let’s learn the difference among these terms.

What is malware?
Malware is short for malicious software, and is a general term used to describe software that is harmful or intrusive. viruses, ransomware, worms, and trojans are all the examples of malware.

What is a virus?
A virus is a program that can replicate itself with little or no user intervention. Viruses typically contain code that causes an unwanted, unexpected, and usually malicious event to occur after some time. This ‘payload’ might corrupt data, or cause other types of problems on your computer. Viruses are often disguised as games, other types of legitimate software, or images with clever marketing titles designed to make you click and open or run them.

What is ransomware?
Ransomware is malware that locks your computer and mobile devices, or encrypts your documents, pictures, and other important files. Like viruses, ransomware is often disguised as a game or some other type of legitimate software. When the ransomware has encrypted your data, a demand is usually made for money. Sometimes, paying the ransom results in your files being decrypted and made accessible again. But this result is not guaranteed; many people pay the ransom but never get their data back again.

What is a worm?
A worm is a type of virus that spreads by creating copies of itself on other drives, computers, or networks. Worms might send copies of themselves to other computers across network connections, through email, through an infected website, or through instant messaging systems. Some worms are differentiated as being “@m” or “@mm”, which signifies that their primary distribution method is through electronic ‘mail’ or ‘mass-mail’. An example of a mass-mailing worm is W32/Klez.e@MM.

What is a trojan?
A trojan (also known as a trojan horse) is a program that either pretends to have, or is described as having, a set of useful or desirable features, but actually contains a damaging payload. True trojans are not technically viruses because they do not replicate. But many viruses and worms use trojan tactics to infect a system. Although trojans are not technically viruses, they can be as destructive.

Many people use the term ‘trojan’ to refer only to non-replicating malicious programs. Their intent is to distinguish between trojans and viruses.

What is a virus hoax?
A virus hoax is a message warning the recipient of a non-existent virus. Virus hoaxes are more than mere annoyances. They can lead some users to routinely ignore all virus warning messages, leaving them vulnerable to a genuine, destructive virus.

Never open an email attachment unless you know what it is, even if it is from someone you know and trust.

Some of the common phrases used in these hoaxes include:

  • If you receive an email titled [email virus hoax name here], do not open it!
  • Delete it immediately! It contains the [hoax name] virus.
  • It deletes everything on your hard drive and [extreme and improbable danger specified here].
  • This virus was announced today by [reputable organization name here].
  • Forward this warning to everyone you know!

Remember that virus writers can use known hoaxes to their advantage. For example, AOL4FREE began as a hoax virus warning. Then, somebody distributed a destructive trojan attached to the original hoax virus warning.

  • Always remain vigilant.
  • Never open a suspicious attachment.

What is not considered a virus?
The following are not likely to be caused by a virus or other malicious code:

  • There are no viruses that can physically damage computer hardware such as chips, boards, and monitors.
  • The computer beeps at startup with no screen display. This condition is usually caused by a hardware problem during the boot process. See your computer documentation (or search Google) for the meaning of the beep codes.
  • You have two anti-virus programs installed and one of them reports a virus. Although the virus report might be accurate, it can also be caused by one anti-virus program detecting the other program’s information in memory. To avoid conflicts, generally use only one anti-virus program on your computer.
  • You are using Microsoft Word and it warns you that a document contains a macro. The macro is not necessarily a virus.


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