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What is a Malware Virus?

Early malware was used to play pranks rather than do anything truly malicious.
Malware is any malicious software program.
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  • Written By: Adam Hill
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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A malware virus is a catch-all term for any annoying or harmful software that makes its way onto a computer or a network without the owner's awareness. The word "malware" comes from the phrase "malicious software." Software is considered to be malware depending on what the intention of its creator was. Computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware or any other form of unwanted software can be considered a malware virus. It is important to distinguish a malware virus from "bugs" or small defects in otherwise legitimate software.

A variety of purposes can be served by a malware virus, from simple pranks or vandalism, to making a financial profit for its creator. Throughout the early history of malware in the 1980s and 1990s, almost every malware virus was written for the sole purpose of playing a prank. Among the less-harmful viruses that circulated during this time was one that opened up all the text documents in a hard drive, and changed every instance of the word "and" to "not." A virus is technically defined as malware that requires intervention on the part of the computer user in order to function, such as opening up a malicious email attachment. Worms are variants of viruses, and may accomplish the same purpose, but are more insidious since they work on their own, without user intervention.

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One of the more infamous and dangerous types of malware viruses that have been seen is the Trojan horse virus. This is a group of viruses that make their way onto a computer, and act as something of a ticking time bomb. At the appointed time, they can erase a hard drive or steal confidential information before rendering the person's computer essentially inoperable. Trojan horse viruses typically present themselves as something that they are not, in order to gain access to a computer hard drive and conceal themselves.

More recently, it has been common to see malware viruses that attempt to make a profit from stealing personal information from a computer user. Keystroke loggers are one example of this newer kind of malware. Their purpose is to keep track of every keystroke that is made on a computer, in order to mine data such as passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive information. This financially motivated malware is often referred to as crimeware or spyware, and can be some of the most troublesome malware in existence.

Fortunately, there are many ways in which computer users can protect themselves from the threat of a malware virus. Anti-virus and anti-spam software are good places to start, and are recommended for those who own a computer that runs a Windows™ operating system. It is usually not considered necessary on computers with other operating systems, since most viruses are not written in a way that targets them.

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Discuss this Article

anon327597
Post 18

Trojan horses, viruses, backdoors, worms -- they are all each individual forms of malware. They all act differently from each other.

'Virus' is a term that has been overused so much that people think any type of malicious software is a virus. In truth, a virus is specifically computer code that replicates itself and infects other files/programs on the computer. Similar to biological viruses that infect the human body.

Viruses are actually outdated and are rarely ever used anymore because they're not as effective as trojans, worms etc.

anon278452
Post 9

Can you lose files due to this virus?

anon192904
Post 5

solve you own problems! don't disturb other people!

anon129909
Post 4

I got AVG anti-virus and got this Malware virus and quarantined five threats and my computer seems to be ok. Does that mean I'm ok then or is someone secretly stealing information?

galen84basc
Post 3

How do I delete a malware virus?

Do I need to take it to a computer store or something?

Can anybody tell me how to fix a malware virus?

TunaLine
Post 2

Can anybody recommend a good malware virus removal tool?

I just did a virus scan of my computer and it said I have a bunch of malware viruses on my computer, and I'm kind of freaking out.

Can anybody tell me how to fix or remove a malware virus?

Charlie89
Post 1

Malware is the worst. I was using a Dell with Windows XP on it, and even though I didn't download anything funky, apparently some kind of crazy malware trojan virus got onto it and completely screwed up my computer.

I don't know if it was specifically a Windows XP malware virus or what, but I couldn't remove it, I couldn't even turn my computer on.

Suffice to say, I now do a ton of malware virus scans, and try my best to avoid getting any kind of new malware virus, but I'm still waiting for the next one to get me...

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