Malware Education

What’s the Difference Between Malware and Viruses?

If you’re not in the IT industry, all the technical terms for malicious attacks on computer network systems can be confusing. It’s also pretty easy to think you know what you’re talking about but actually have not got it right. In today’s blog post, we’re going to tackle viruses and malware, a couple of the most-used terms when talking about email threat protection, and figure out how you can address them.

What’s a virus?

‘Virus’ is probably the word that’s used more than any other in this area, and it can get bandied around as a kind of catch-all. People will talk about antivirus software, and about any kind of malicious attack as being caused by a virus. Sometimes, this isn’t quite right.

A virus is actually a fairly specific kind of attack, caused by your computer either coming into contact with or booting from an infected USB or disk drive, or by the download and launch of an infected program- or even by macros, hidden in fake documents, often made to look real. As the name suggests, viruses are infectious and tend to spread across your computer system, infecting new programs or discs, laying low until the moment when the virus’ ‘payload’ is activated, and it begins to act maliciously. Viruses are often used to steal information, or to launch denial of service attacks on websites, using infected machines. They might also overwrite the information on your computer, and can generally wreak havoc.

What’s malware?

Malware, on the other hand, is the catch-all term that’s quite often meant when people use the term virus. Malware is any kind of program or software that’s being used maliciously, to attack or harm computers and computer networks. Viruses are a type of malware, but they’re just one kind. Malware includes attacks that function in different ways from viruses, such as worms, and types of software with specific objectives, such as spyware (malware designed to spy on its victims), ransomware (malware designed to extort its victims) and adware (malware designed to spam its victims with lots of ads).

Read more about WannaCry Ransomware Malware.

Read more about Petya Ransomware Malware.

What can these do?

Malware and viruses are dangerous because they can give malicious actors access to and/or control over your computer systems. They can also steal information, and make your machines complicit in attacks on other computers, whether by infecting connected systems or by rerouting their malicious actions through your system.

So what can you do?

Most ‘antivirus’ programs are actually anti-malware, working against much more than just viruses. However, free antivirus programs might not protect against all threats, as malware programs are constantly evolving and adapting, to evade efforts to stop them, avoid detection and become more effective.

Luckily, Spambrella provides cloud-based malware protection, meaning that our malware and virus engines keep up-to-date with the latest developments from malicious actors, responding in real-time. Spambrella is able to protect you against all kinds of malware attacks. Crucially, since email attachments remain a very popular method of infecting computers with malware, Spambrella provides a wide variety of email security services, including features like attachment filtering, to protect against common attacks.

Impostor Email Attacks Increased More than 60% Year-Over-Year