What is Malware?
Malware in its many forms poses one of the biggest threats to internet users today. Malicious software can be divided into a number of different categories and includes computer viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware among others. It has the ability to hijack your web browser, redirect your search engine attempts, bombard your screen with pop-up advertisements and even monitor your activity. Because malware is often poorly scripted, it may cause your computer to become terribly slow and unstable. If it is not removed immediately, this type of program can eventually cause your system to become inoperable.
Most malware programs will reinstall themselves even after you think they have been removed. They typically hide deep within the Windows registry, making them difficult to manually remove. When this occurs, your computer may become so unstable that installing a malware removal tool may be impossible.
Methods of Infection
Malware will find its way to your system in various ways. It often comes bundled with freeware applications such as iMesh, Kazaa and other file sharing programs. These programs mainly consist of adware, which is known to display pop-ups in hopes of generating revenue for the software's author. Other forms of malware are installed from sites purporting as software providers. Most of them will attempt to convince you to download a removal tool, claiming that your system is infected. Viruses and worms are mainly contracted via email, automatically launching themselves the moment you open an attachment. Some forms of malware can be installed from simply visiting an infected website.
Just being a user of Microsoft products makes you a prime target for malware. Outlook, Outlook Express, the Internet Explorer browser and Windows itself are known for having numerous security vulnerabilities, enabling malicious coders to penetrate a victim's system and infect it with viruses, worms or spyware. Unfortunately, catching an infection is much easier than eradicating it, as some variations have the ability to propagate, spread the infection to other computers and claim complete control of your system.
Although viruses are one of the most common forms, not all anti-virus programs will remove malware. There are, however, all-in-one internet security suites that claim to fight all types of infections. Aside from an anti-spyware application, a genuine malware tool is the best way to detect and eliminate the wide range of threats this type of infection presents. These programs having a better chance of detecting harmful programs your virus scanner may have missed.
Out of all computer code released onto the internet today, most appears to be of a malicious nature. According to preliminary results gathered by Symantec sensors in 2008, the release rate of malware and other unwanted software may soon exceed that of legitimate applications. F-Secure follows this up by reporting that just as much malware was released in 2007 as in the past twenty years combined. As the outbreak of malicious software is likely to only get worse, it's important to take every precaution when conducting activities on the internet. At the bare minimum, your system should be equipped with an anti-malware program to keep this tremendous threat away.