You have probably heard computer people talk about Malware and the damage it can cause. I recently realized that those outside the computer industry are not always familiar with the word. So here is my answer to the frequent question, "What is Malware?"
First, the word "malware" is formed from the words "malicious" and "software." Malware, then is software that performs malicious activities on a computer system, usually without the knowledge of the computer owner or user. Calling something "malware" presupposes a harmful intention on the part of the creator or sender of the software. Malware can harm individual computers, networks or servers.
Second, "malware" is a broad term that includes a number of tactics used to do harm to a computer. It includes computer viruses, worms, spyware, Trojan horses, and dishonest ads. For example, there are now images in advertising (e-mails, newsletters, etc.) that are activated when the communication is opened. Embedded in the images are codes that gather information from your computer and report it back to the sender. Some service providers have now begun to block all images from e-mails.
Third, "malware" is the same as a "computer contaminant" â€“ a phrase used in the legal codes of several states, including California.
Fourth, defective software is not malware. Although defective software can damage a computer or a network, the manufacturer's intent is not to do harm.
Malware can affect or be aimed at any single computer or any type of system such as a network, an application, or an operating system. What makes a computer vulnerable to malware?
â€¢ When all of the computers in a network operate on the same operating system, all of the computers in the network are vulnerable if someone breaks that system.
â€¢ Bugs or errors in a system make it easier to exploit with malware.
â€¢ Hidden codes from internet sites, e-mails, CDs or other disks can introduce malware without the user realizing it.
â€¢ Inappropriate changes to the internal structure of the system.
â€¢ Inadequate system security that allows access to unauthorized persons.
You can be proactive in protecting your computer or system from malware. The primary elements of malware protection are:
â€¢ Keep all software current and properly patched
â€¢ Update your operating system regularly
â€¢ Update your anti-virus software regularly
â€¢ Download files only from reliable known sources
â€¢ Read all license agreements carefully before installing new software. Look for warnings about spyware.
â€¢ Install and use a firewall.
â€¢ Allow only the experts to modify code or make changes to the structure of the system.
If the smooth and efficient operation of your computer or your network is important to you, it is important to remember that many damaged files and programs can never be repaired or recovered if attacked by malware. Protect your system, protect your programs, protect your files.
Thomas Burns, founder and CEO of Intelligent Networks Services (INS) has been an industry expert in computer network and technology for over 20 years. Under his careful supervision, INS has become a leading, full service IT support company servicing small to mid-sized businesses in Silicon Valley. For more information go to: http://www.intelligentns.com/subscribe and receive a complimentary network evaluation.