You’ve no doubt seen them on your computer: the popups telling you to buy their Anti-virus product because your computer is “infected”; the strange ads and search bars that appear when you google something; ominous popups alerting you that your files are encrypted.
These dastardly interrupters are what you probably know as “viruses” or “malware” – and you probably use the words interchangeably. But are they the same thing? Not exactly.
Viruses are, in fact, a subcategory of Malware. The latter word, in fact, is a shortened version of Malicious Software, an umbrella term for any software that does harmful or unwanted things to your computer, usually without your permission or knowledge. Since viruses certainly fit that bill, they can be considered Malware.
The truth is, viruses aren’t prevalent in modern computers and networks these days. Chances are, if you’ve experienced an invasive attack on your system in the last five to 10 years, you’ve probably experienced some other type of Malware infection, and not a virus.
“Wait,” you might be thinking, “so why am I even using an antivirus program?” Rest assured, modern Antivirus prevents (or tries to prevent) all types of Malware; it’s just that the term “Antivirus” was coined when viruses were the only type of Malware in existence.