8 types of malware and how to recognize them

People tend to play fast and loose with security terminology. However, it’s important to get your malware classifications straight because knowing how various types of malware spread is vital to containing and removing them.

This concise malware bestiary will help you get your malware terms right when you hang out with geeks.

1. Viruses

A computer virus is what most of the media and regular end-users call every malware program reported in the news. Fortunately, most malware programs aren’t viruses. A computer virus modifies other legitimate host files (or pointers to them) in such a way that when a victim’s file is executed, the virus is also executed.

Pure computer viruses are uncommon today, comprising less than 10 percent of all malware. That’s a good thing: Viruses are the only type of malware that “infects” other files. That makes them particularly hard to clean up because the malware must be executed from the legitimate program. This has always been nontrivial, and today it’s almost impossible. The best antivirus programs struggle with doing it correctly and in many (if not most) cases will simply quarantine or delete the infected file instead.