Back to the Basics: Malware 101


School is officially back in session, which means it’s time for a little education.  And, with cyber security as hot of a topic as it is, let’s rewind just a little and go back to Malware 101: Basic Categories and Proper Defense Tactics.  Even if you consider yourself something of a cyber-security expert, it’s never a bad idea to keep things fresh in your mind.


We’ve all heard the story of the infamous Trojan Horse that the Greeks built and used to sneak into the city of Troy.  Under the guise of an offering, the Trojan Horse was a backdoor into Troy and, ultimately, led to a Greek victory.

This is exactly how a computer Trojan works.

They trick you into believing you’re downloading a legitimate application or file but, in reality, you’re actually downloading malware.  Once it’s in, you’ve given hackers, viruses and other malicious malware easy access to your computer.  So, while they can’t replicate like viruses or worms, they’re just as dangerous and obtrusive.

From here, Trojans can view your web history, intercept your passwords, steal login information, remotely control your computer and use you for click fraud.


Worms are great at finding your vulnerabilities and using them to their advantage.  They spread through various means such as email attachments, social networking sites and software loopholes.

From shutting down your system to drying up your resources, worms self-replicate without the need for a hacker or computer program.  They spread across entire networks quickly and with very little effort and can seriously damage any infected device or PC.


This cyber-threat is probably the most well-known of them all.  In fact, most people tend to generalize cyber-threats as viruses; they don’t fully understand the differences between a Virus, Worm or Trojan… or any other malicious malware for that matter.

A virus spreads and self-replicates without the assistance of a hacker (much like a worm) but it needs to attach to a file or program to do so.  Usually, they spread through email attachments or instant messages.  This is where the whole, “Know what you’re opening and who it’s from” comes into play.

A virus can slow down your computer, mess with your operating system or “damage your hardware, software and files.”  The severity, degree and spread of a virus can vary significantly.

Proper Defense Tactics

So, how do you protect yourself and your devices from cyber-threats?  Well, it’s all about not staying cautious and remaining cynical.  Never open up something, click a link or visit a website unless you’re absolutely positive it’s legitimate.  If it seems even a little bit fishy, stay away… stay far away.

Another major element of cyber-security is making sure that your security and software is consistently up-to-date.  Going back to worms, they exploit your vulnerabilities to wiggle their way into your computer.  Vulnerabilities like these arise from forgotten patches, outdated software and poor security implementations.

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