What Is Malware? Virus, Trojan, Ransomware. Whats The Difference?



Malware, short for malicious software, is any software used to disrupt computer systems, gather sensitive data, gain access to private computer systems, or display unwanted advertising. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s the term computer virus was more commonly used however as of late the term Malware has been coined as a broad term to oversee the group of different malicious softwares currently circulating the web.

For the most part, Malware is created in order to make money illegally through the theft of sensitive and confidential information from victims computers and other online devices. Malware however is also commonly used for fraudulent activities, cyber vandalism, cyber espionage, hacktivism and even cyber warfare. What started out as pranking between fellow hackers has now evolved into a multibillion dollar industry that affects more than half the world’s online population.

Some of the most common forms of malware include but are not limited to:


The most common of malware, the computer virus is a malicious program that hides itself within another seemingly innocuous program. Once installed the virus produces copies of itself and spreads onto other programs or files where it will infect and continue to spread throughout the computer, hence the name. Once spread throughout the computer, the virus will usually cause the computer damage by destroying files and in some cases making the computer unbootable should the computers required to run programs become infected.

Trojan Horse

A Trojan Horse, is any form a of malware in which misrepresents itself to appear use full, routine or interesting in order to persuade one to download it. Trojans can contain malicious code that when triggered can cause damage or loss of a computer’s data. More commonly however, Trojans are used to install backdoors, contacting a controller which can then have unauthorized access to the affected computer. A very important distinction from true viruses is that they do not replicate themselves, as viruses do.

Root Kits

Once Malware has successfully infect a victim’s computer, it is essential for hackers that it stays concealed to avoid being caught out. Root kits installed through a backdoor allow for this concealment by modifying the host’s operating system in a way that hides any malware from the user. A rootkit can prevent malware from being visible even in the systems lists of processes, or keep its files from being read.


A backdoor is a preinstalled method of bypassing normal authentication procedures and gaining constant access to private computer over a network such as the internet. Once a computer has been compromised, backdoors can be installed in order to allow access at any time in the future without any further hacking done or the host knowing.


A ransomware is any form of malware that prevents a user from accessing their computer until a ransom is paid. The most common form of ransomware is Locky, in which locks the screen of a computer or mobile device making it completely unusable until the instructions are followed. Usually requiring the user to send a sum of money via the dark web to regain access to their device. Due the possibility of having locky ransomware removed by a computer technician, a more modern and effective type of ransomware is crypto-ransomware. Rather than locking the screen, the computer’s data is encrypted and forces users to pay the ransom to get the decrypt key or risk losing their data forever.

‘What Is Malware? Virus, Trojan, Ransomware Whats The Difference?’ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You have permission to republish this article with attribution to the author and Blog.trustico.com.
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