The ABC’s of Cybersecurity

The world of cybersecurity encompasses numerous terms that are all slightly different in meaning. Here’s a handy guide to figure out what each term means and how it’s different from others.

Malware

This is an umbrella term for any malicious software (hence: malware) that can sneak its way into your computer. Malware is basically anything that gets in the way of normal computer functions, whether the user realizes it or not. The term ‘malware’ essentially covers all the other terms we will identify below.

Virus

This is a program that gets into your computer and causes severe damage by filling up disk space with randomly corrupted and copied files, or by deleting or corrupting your files. Think of it like a cold virus – you don’t realize you have it until it’s too late and it has wreaked havoc on your whole body. Viruses usually work their way into your computer in the form of online games, email attachments that have been corrupted, websites, and through shared links.

Worm

This is a type of virus that wiggles its way throughout the programs on your computer and leaves copies of itself in its wake. Worms become very dangerous because they are able to send copies of themselves through program installations, emails and infected websites.

Trojan Horse

As the name suggests, this type of malware presents itself as a useful or required code or program, but is actually severely damaging once installed. While it is not considered a virus, viruses often use these sneaky tactics to disguise themselves to infiltrate your computer.

Spyware

This type of malware does exactly what the name suggests: it spies on you and all your activity, from what sites you spend time on to what information you input into online forms. Some spyware keeps a log of everything you type online, and can use this information to steal your identity. Other types of spyware can be so invasive but sneaky that your internet connection ultimately slows down.

Adware

This is similar to spyware in that this malware observes your internet habits and sends you popups based on your browsing interests, ultimately slowing down your computer. Some adware is combined with spyware, leading to an invasion of your identity by keeping track of any personal information you input online.

Ed Kang