Malware, short for malicious software, is a term used to describe any software designed to cause damage to a single computer, server, or computer network. This can range from intrusive software such as viruses or spyware to system-focused attacks such as ransomware, worms, or trojans.
Malware operates against the interests of the computer user, performing functions that range from annoying to outright harmful. These actions can include, but are not limited to, stealing sensitive data (like credit card information or personal identification), encrypting user data and demanding a ransom for its return, logging keystrokes to gather information, spamming contacts, or even taking full control of a computer and using it for illegal activities.
Malware can find its way onto a system through various means. Some common methods include email attachments, malicious advertisements, websites containing harmful scripts, or software downloads that appear legitimate but contain hidden malicious code.
To protect against malware, individuals and businesses should use a combination of good digital hygiene and security software. This can include keeping software and operating systems updated with the latest patches, using a reliable and updated antivirus software, not clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, regularly backing up important data, and educating oneself about the latest types of malware and the damage they can do.