Digital devices have made our lives far more convenient than at any point in the past, but they’re not without their risks. The biggest of these is called malware, and it’s an issue that has plagued computing since even before the advent of the internet.

On this page, we want to explore what is malware exactly, the different types of malware, and how you can protect yourself. It can be a scary world out there, but with the right practices, staying safe can be a walk in the digital park.

What is Malware?

The most basic malware definition is a portmanteau of malicious software. This is a broad term used to relate to any form of program or code that is harmful to digital or digitally connected systems. You might have heard of terms like trojans, keyloggers, and ransomware, all of which connect under the malware meaning banner.

Malware is such an issue because it can affect so many systems. If a bad actor is dedicated enough and a person or system doesn’t have adequate safety measures in place, then malware can cause harm. Even devices like Apple’s systems which are generally thought of as airtight are not immune, as malware on iPhone or iPad can be a real problem.

Common Types of Malware

Malware comes in many forms, not all of which are equally dangerous. The most common examples include:

  • Viruses – can operate a wide number of functions, from deleting data to stealing confidential information.
  • Trojans – files that are placed on a computer that, when accessed, provide outside access.
  • Bots – programs that are often used to perform mass attacks like DDoS efforts when activated by the controlling user.
  • Ransomware – Malware that can lock down a user’s files until payment is given to the malware creators.
  • Spyware – Malware like keyloggers and data trackers that spy on what a user is doing and report that information back to the creators.
  • Rootkits – Malware that allows a bad actor deep system-level access to a device, such as access to the BIOS.

Some of these forms of malware, like bots, might not create a noticeable effect for the user the entire time they’re there. Other malware forms like rootkits and ransomware can render a system completely inoperable.

Protecting Against Malware

As scary as malware can seem, it can also be managed with a few simple safety procedures. The first is to keep your devices up to date whenever you can. Updates will continuously address newly found security concerns, meaning each patch makes a system safer than before.

It's also good practice to never download software or addons from unauthorized websites, or those which look unofficial. Malware can also piggyback on trusted program installers, so be careful when installing an app or piece of software.

For a final step against malware, you can also use an app like the Malwarebytes free scan to check your device for malware incursions. Run this check regularly, and you’ll sleep better for it.