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Malware, viruses and botnets, oh my! These 3 types of cybercriminal tools are common online, and you as an internet user might come across them from time to time.
With some easy-to-implement preventative measures, you can keep yourself safe from these threats.
Short for malicious software, malware disrupts or damages a device’s operation. Malware can gather sensitive or private information from your computer or other device. These nasty little programs can also gain access to private computer systems. Let’s look at three common types of malware.
The terms “spyware” and “adware” apply to several different technologies. There are two important things to know about these programs. First, they can download themselves onto your device without your permission, typically when you visit an unsafe website or via an attachment.
Further, spyware and adware can make your computer do things you don’t want it to do, such as opening advertisements you don’t want to see. In the worst cases, spyware can track your online movements, steal your passwords, and compromise your accounts.
Viruses are harmful programs that can be transmitted to computers and other connected devices in several ways. They are typically a bit more targeted and aggressive than mere malware. Although there is a huge range of different computer viruses (just like real diseases), all are designed to spread themselves from one device to another, causing havoc in the process. Most commonly, viruses are designed to give their cybercriminal creators some sort of access to the infected devices.
Botnets are networks of computers infected by malware (such as computer viruses, key loggers and other malicious software) and controlled remotely by criminals, usually for financial gain or to launch attacks on websites or networks.
Your computer can get infected with malware and become part of a botnet, and you would probably not even know it until its too late. As part of the botnet, your device communicates and receives instructions from “command and control” computers, which can be located anywhere around the globe. In this scenario, what your computer does depends on what the cybercriminals are trying to accomplish.
Many botnets are designed to harvest data, such as passwords, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and other personal information. The data is then used for nefarious purposes, such as identity theft, credit card fraud, spam, website attacks and further malware distribution.