When you are earning your information security degree, you will learn about malware and most importantly what effect it has on the industry today. There was once a time when nearly every piece of malicious software was referred to as a virus, but this term has evolved into several specific sub-categories that provide more accurate descriptions. Depending upon your position within an organization, you may be instrumental in protecting your company from one of the infections that we will mention below today.
Malware – an Information Security Nightmare
Within the information security industry, the term malware is very common, but it is also discussed frequently in the consumer world. Almost everyone who owns an electronic device must deal with various forms of malware, and most recently, malware has begun infecting smartphones and tablets. Malware strands can range from harmless pranks to critical data breaches and represent a legitimate threat to today’s businesses.
Viruses – the Generic Descriptor
You have heard of viruses in various instances, and the term itself has not evolved much during the past decade or so. A virus is a self-replicating piece of software that spreads to different hosts. Viruses will attach to a host file and modify it so that it can be transported to the next host. This is almost always done with the help of the user, however. In the early days viruses spread through floppy discs, but now we see them spread via the internet.
Adware – Low Risk, but Still a Problem
Of all the different types of malicious software, adware tends to present the lowest risk to users, and it is usually the most obvious to detect. Adware often installs itself on a device as an add-on with free software, serving to generate more revenue for the company providing the free software. For the most part, adware simply supplies unwanted advertisements, as per its namesake, and it can be very intrusive.
Spyware – Keeping an Eye on your Computer
Spyware functions in a method very similar to adware in that it is designed to collect information from a PC. The difference is that it is not trying to gain a profit, but rather stealing credentials or looking closely at browsing habits.
The Worm – an Automated Virus
Worms are very much like viruses, but they do not require user intervention to spread. The malicious software simply needs to be exposed to the internet or to a local network, and it will spread at an exponential rate. A virus can be combined with a worm, and this gives the virus the capability to travel freely.
The Trojan Horse – a Secret Weapon
A trojan usually comes in the form of a seemingly reputable piece of software or file download, but it serves to infect the host computer with a piece of backdoor software. This software will permit an unauthorized user to gain access to your computer and either steal information or do damage.
Keyloggers – an Efficient Means of Stealing Information
Keyloggers are designed to watch user input and will account for all keystrokes on a given computer. They will then dump the collected information into a log file that can be easily retrieved by the attacker. This software is most commonly used for capturing passwords so that a system can be breached at a later time.
As you pursue a job as an information technology security officer, you will learn the intricacies of these types of malcontents and much more. The world is becoming a more complicated place, and it is also becoming a more dangerous place. Your skills will be needed, and they will help lead you to a brand new, interesting career.
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