The term “malware” is a contraction of two words, “malicious” and “software” – malevolent software, in other words. It would be much nicer if we didn’t need a word for this, as it’s a programme that infiltrates your computer without your knowledge, with the aim of causing harm.
People are highly inventive when it comes to malware, as about fifteen different types have been identified. Most famous is the virus, a word borrowed from the world of medicine that eloquently describes the havoc it can cause. A virus is a form of malware with the ability to propagate. Then there’s the worm, with its nice familiar zoological name, chosen because – well, it worms its way into your computer through your email inbox. It takes the form of a message with a file attachment, which contains the worm. When you open the file attachment, you let the parasite loose on your computer. The problem is that the worm might easily have come from one of your friends, to catch you off your guard. If one of your virtual friends sends you a file to download, it’s quite possible that there’s a worm in it. If your friend’s own inbox has been invaded, his worm will be attacking you, too. It’s enough to make you paranoid. Another very widespread form of malware is the Trojan horse, which installs harmful functions on your computer without your knowledge. It can even take control remotely of your computer or what’s on your screen. As it happens, this particular horse is sterile, and can’t reproduce. Then there’s spyware, software that spies on you to collect your personal data and pass it on to someone else. And its baby brother the key logger, which records everything you type on your keyboard – like your bank code number or password. This, of course, is not to mention the other kinds of malware we’ve already defined on MyNetWords, such as phishing.