The Difference Between a Computer Virus, Spyware, & Malware

Viruses, spyware, and malware – it’s no secret that all three are problematic, but few people can actually tell these hazards apart. A little knowledge could benefit us all; the more we know about these threats, the better we can arm ourselves and keep them at bay.

Keep reading to learn how to identify computer viruses, spyware, or malware, and how you can best prevent a computer virus or remove computer malware if your machine has been affected.

Defining Viruses, Malware, and Spyware

While viruses, spyware, and malware hold several commonalities, their differences are worth examining. Many threats can be accurately categorized as both viruses and malware. However, some attacks can be defined as malware without meeting the criteria for a virus.

What is A Computer Malware?

Malware is an umbrella term used to identify a myriad of threats involving malicious code. These may include:

  • Viruses
  • Trojans
  • Worms
  • Adware
  • Spyware

What is A Computer Virus?

Technically, viruses are malware – they are, by their very nature, malicious and unwanted. Unlike some forms of malware, however, computer viruses are designed to replicate and spread. This makes them uniquely threatening, as the effects of a single attack can prove especially pronounced.

What is Computer Spyware?

Spyware is also a specific type of malware. As its name implies, it is inherently covert. By sneakily infiltrating devices, spyware is able to steal sensitive data from your personal machine. Depending on the attacker, this information can fuel identify theft or be sold to unauthorized third parties. Spyware victims are rarely aware of the infiltration until long after they’ve been targeted.

How To Protect Your Computer from Malware

Cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more difficult to avoid than ever. A report from Cybersecurity Ventures suggests that, on a global scale, cybercrime will cost a shocking $6 billion by 2021. Often, small businesses are most adversely impacted by viruses, spyware, and other malicious behavior.

The good news? Many cybercriminals can be kept at bay through the implementation of a few basic security measures. Not sure where to start? Consider implementing the following computer safety tips.

Step Up Your Computer Password Game

Passwords remain one of the most effective defenses against malware. While many attackers gain access through phishing emails and problematic plug-ins, some prefer brute force attacks, in which they correctly identify both usernames and their attached passwords. To prevent these types of attacks, opt for difficult-to-guess sequences of numbers, letters, and other characters. Avoid complete words, especially if they reference an important part of your life. Rotate passwords regularly and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

Identify and Avoid Suspicious Emails

Employees often unleash devastating malware attacks by opening seemingly ordinary emails. The nature of these attacks has changed considerably in recent years. These days, most people know better than to respond to emails from Nigerian princes – but they might fall for man-in-the-middle attacks or other efforts in which hackers disguise themselves as employees or vendors. When in doubt, avoid emails that exhibit the following warning signs:

  • Requests for Personal Information (Such as Login Credentials or Banking Data)
  • Suspicious or Unexpected Attachments
  • Messages Designed to Instill Panic
  • Lack of Valid Contact Information in the Email’s Signature

Spam filters can play an integral role in malware prevention. If employees never see suspicious emails, they need not risk accidentally opening them.

Don’t Haphazardly Download Computer Plug-Ins

Plug-ins can dramatically improve functionality on WordPress and other applications, but they also increase the risk of security breaches. Examine potential plug-ins and their sites of origin closely to determine whether they’re reputable. While this is often difficult to ascertain, you can learn a lot from the website’s privacy policy, terms of service, and general layout.

Plug-in risks continue long after the initial download. Authors sometimes move on to greener pastures, failing to provide the updates that users so desperately need. Assess your existing plug-in situation every few months to ensure that all remain functional and up-to-date. Abandon any plug-ins that fail to stay on top of security concerns with regular code improvements.

Backup Your Data onto an External Hard Drive

Ransomware is another form of malware that involves extortion via blocked access to computer systems. Data backup can provide an element of relief in the event of a ransomware attack. Already equipped with the data you need, you can address threats rationally and without compromising your company’s future. Likewise, if your virus ordeal results in a complete data wipeout, you can take solace in knowing that your key data is perfectly preserved elsewhere.

How NerdsToGo Can Help Prevent & Remove Computer Viruses

While the average computer user may struggle to identify malicious behavior, the NerdsToGo team knows what it takes to keep your devices free of malware, spyware, and viruses. We can help you recover files from a broken computer, remove viruses, or speed up devices mired in spyware.

No matter the nature of your current computer issues, you can depend on NerdsToGo to restore your computer to full functioning condition in a timely manner. In addition to assisting everyday computer users, we also handle commercial malware concerns. Our Nerds can assist you in computer malware removal and data protection for your business.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or learn more about our computer repair and data recovery services.