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Thread: Difference between Virus, Trojan, Worm, Adware, Rootkit, Malware, etc

  1. #1
    hackerman1 is offline Senior Member
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    Dec 2008

    Thumbs down Difference between Virus, Trojan, Worm, Adware, Rootkit, Malware, etc

    hi !

    I got an email from Emsisoft with their latest newsletter, it´s a VERY good explanation of the terms commonly used:


    The terms "anti-virus" and "anti-malware" which are used in a lot of protection software are, unfortunately, quite confusing. Some users are led to believe that anti-virus solutions are more effetctive than those that protect against malware, whereas the latter actually is the generic term. The matter is even more complicated as, nowadays, all common anti-virus software also protects against other kinds of malware. What's more: the term "anti-malware" is sometimes also used for software that offers no comprehensive protection against all kinds of threats, but merely specializes on one category or on persistent malware.

    Everyone knows about viruses, and almost everyone is familiar with trojans, spyware or adware.
    But what about rootkits, ransomware and rogues ?
    In the following you will be given a short introduction to different kinds of malware.

    • Virus
      A computer virus spreads on its own by smuggling its code into application software.

    The name is in analogy to its biological archetype.
    Not only does a computer virus spread many times and make the host software unusable, but also runs malicious routines.

    • Trojan horse/Trojan
      A Trojan horse is a type of malware disguised as useful software.

    The aim is that the user executes the Trojan, which gives it full control of your PC and the possibility to use it for its own purposes.
    Most of times, more malware will be installed in your system, such as backdoors or key loggers.

    • Worm
      Worms are malicious software that aim at spreading as fast as possible once your PC has been infected.

    Unlike viruses, it is not other programs that are used to spread the worms, but storage devices such as USB sticks,
    or communication media such as e-mail or vulnerabilities in your OS.
    Their propagation slows down performance of PCs and networks, or direct malicious routines will be implemented.

    • Key loggers
      Key loggers log any keyboard input without you even noticing, which enables pirates to get their hands on passwords,

    or other important data such as online banking details.

    • Dialers
      Dialers are relics from a time when modems or ISDN were still used to go online.

    They dialed expensive premium-rates numbers and thus caused your telephone bill to reach astronomic amounts,
    which meant enormous financial damage to you, the poor victim, who did not even know they were there.
    Dialers have no effect on ADSL or cable connections, which is why they are mostly considered extinct nowadays.

    • Backdoor / Bot
      A backdoor is usually a piece of software implemented by the authors themselves that enables access to your PC,

    or any kind of protected function of a computer program.
    Backdoors are often installed once Trojans have been executed, so whoever attacks your PC will gain direct access to your PC.
    The infected PC, also called "bot", will become part of a botnet.

    • Exploit
      Exploits are used to systematically exploit vulnerabilities of a computer program.

    Whoever attackes your PC will gain control of your PC or at least of parts of it.

    • Spyware
      Spyware is software that spies on you, i.e. collects different user data from your PC without you even noticing.

    • Adware
      Adware is derived from "advertisement".

    Beside the actual function of the software, the user will see advertisements.
    Adware itself is not dangerous, but tons of displayed adverts are considered a nuisance and thus are detected by good anti-malware solutions.

    • Rootkit
      A rootkit mostly consists of several parts that will grant unauthorized access to your PC.

    Plus, processes and program parts will be hidden.
    They can be installed, for instance, through an exploit or a Trojan.

    • Rogues / Scareware
      Also know as „Rogue Anti-Spyware“ or„Rogue Anti-Virus“, rogues pretend to be security software.

    Often, fake warnings are used to make you purchase the security software, which the pirates profit from.

    "Ransom" is just what you think it is.
    Ransomware will encrypt personal user data or block your entire PC.
    Once you have paid the "ransom" through an anonymous service, your PC will be unblocked.


    This is just a part of the newsletter, for the full text go their website: Malware and viruses - what is the difference ?
    Last edited by hackerman1; 27th June 2016 at 09:10.

  2. #2
    DustinH's Avatar
    DustinH is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Boardman, OR


    Good information. Although the average Joe would just say he has a virus, he could have any number of things, and possibly not even a virus. However, for them it's just a simple term that brings an inconvenience. Being protected with both an anti-virus AND an anti-malware program and keeping them updated and running them regularly is a must. There are many AV programs that miss a lot, and a lot of AM programs that catch a lot of malware, but don't detect a lot of viruses.

    And I kind of miss the old days finding a dialer on a machine... Nostalgia from a bad program that caused a lot of problems for many people. :/

  3. #3
    HappyAndyK's Avatar
    HappyAndyK is offline Site Administrator
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    Jun 2008


    Nice piece of information there. Not many know the exact difference and most end up using the term 'virus' or malware for them.

  4. #4
    DustinH's Avatar
    DustinH is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Boardman, OR


    Quote Originally Posted by HappyAndyK View Post
    Nice piece of information there. Not many know the exact difference and most end up using the term 'virus' or malware for them.
    I know I do when talking to a lot of people. I think "virus" has become less of a specific term and became a very general term to mean any infection. When talking to other geeks about it though, I usually use (or try to) the correct terminology.

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