Malware: A Basic Introduction

by hmiller 8. December 2009 02:13

The computer and Internet world is new to many people. It’s a wonderful and exciting thing—but it can also be scary. With horror stories of identity theft and computers crashing due to spyware and viruses, it’s no wonder it’s a scary place for many. Here’s some helpful information to understand the basics of malware and determine the differences between the types of malware.

Malware, the shortened name of malicious software is any software that has an ulterior, unscrupulous, or dishonest motive. The effects of malware can be as harmless as simply being annoying and slightly slowing down your computer’s performance, or as dangerous as attacking your computer and your important files or collecting private information from you, like credit card numbers and passwords.

There are two basic categories of malware, the “front door” and the “back door” intruders. Malware that tries to infect your computer through email and networks is known as front door intruders and can be detected and caught fairly easily by an antivirus program. The “back door” intruders are hidden and disguised software that is often bundled with another program or appears to be something helpful. Usually these are downloaded by users from the Internet. Back door malware cannot be detected by antivirus programs. The following is a brief description of the different types of malware in each category:

*The Back Door Intruders*
Spyware: This is software that collects information about a user, often to obtain search or surfing habits or private information, like passwords and credit card information. There are different types of spyware, like keyloggers that detect what keys are pressed, and “security programs” that promise to scan your computer for infections, but instead install programs to use your computer memory and give hackers access to your computer.

Adware: This type of malware is typically packages with other software, especially if it is free. It can vary from simply bombarding you with advertising every time you use the software, or collecting information about the searches and surfing you perform in order to tailor advertising to your interests.
A good indication that you may have spyware or adware on your computer is if your browser redirects to other pages by itself or search sites you don’t recognize, your homepage changes by itself, or advertisements pop up constantly, especially if they address you by name or appear even when you are offline.

There are several tools that can be downloaded to remove existing back door malware, but be careful what you download, as a misleading program might simply worsen your situation! A good firewall or antispyware program will help prevent new back door malware from having access to your computer.

*The Front Door Intruders*
Computer Viruses and Worms: These programs enter the computer through a computer network or through files like email attachments. They can replicate themselves to infect core computer files. Viruses and worms use up computer resources and are poorly built, so an infected computer will run slowly or crash often.  Some types are very dangerous and can destroy important system or personal files. Because of their replicating nature, these infections become more harmful the longer they are on the user’s computer.

Trojan Horse: This is a file that appears harmless or helpful, but once installed, it can open a “back door” through which a hacker can access the computer, use system resources for spamming and other malicious purposes, all without the knowledge of the computer’s user. Unlike a virus, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves, but they are usually installed and running without the user’s knowledge or intent.

You may have a virus if you computer suddenly begins lagging significantly more than usual or shuts down and gives error messages repeatedly. You should have an antivirus program installed and running on your computer. You must also keep it updated constantly so it will be aware of new virus threats. A computer scan by your antivirus may resolve basic virus problems, but an advanced virus infection may require in-depth resolution by a computer technician. In many cases, this step results in the loss of personal files, so keep your documents, pictures, and installation files backed up regularly to another computer, CDs, flash drives, or an external hard drive.


Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at! Check out my blog for more articles!

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About the author

Hannah Miller is an Online Marketing Representative for - America's best provider for Dial-Up Internet Service since 1997.

Hannah has been a Customer Service and Tech Support agent for since 2007, which has supplemented her knowledge of dial-up, computers, and the Internet. The entries that are posted in this blog are professional articles relating to our industry. Email your questions, suggestions, and other comments to

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