What is Virus Malware and How Does it Work? | EasyDMARC

What is Virus Malware and How Does it Work?

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It doesn’t matter if we’re offline or online, the safety of our devices and data is paramount. The number of cybercrimes increases perpetually, and that’s why you must know about various types of cyberattacks and preventative measures.

This blog is all about virus malware, its types, symptoms, and ways to detect and prevent it. Before getting into the details, it’s best to understand the differences between ransomware vs. malware vs. phishing. These terms fall under the same category but shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

What is Virus Malware?

What is malware? A malware virus is a piece of malicious code or program designed to infect, alter, and hinder a local network or a system’s operational processes. 

It spreads from one device to another, attaching to legitimate programs or files that support macros to execute malicious codes.

In other words, a malware virus is like a flu virus that spreads from one person to another. It replicates itself and spreads from host to host, infecting all computers, data, and networks in its wake  But just as the flu virus needs a host cell, a malware virus needs a file or program to activate and spread. 

Generally, the aim of creating and spreading a virus is to harm a network or system’s functioning and export sensitive information. It’s also used to delete or corrupt data, download additional malware or disrupt operations. 

Malware vs. Virus: What’s the Difference?

You may be confused between these two terms, so let’s quickly discuss malware vs. a virus

If you Google Is malware a virus?’, some resources may say there’s no difference between a virus and malware. But that’s not exactly true.

Malware is a broad term referring to malicious software, and a virus is just one of many types of malware. In fact, the computer virus is the first form of malware ever created.

It’s designed to gain unauthorized entry into a system, infecting computers, tablets, smartphones, and even entire networks. A virus typically causes harm by disrupting normal computing processes and corrupting or stealing data. Besides viruses, malware encompasses various types of malicious software, including worms, trojans, spyware programs, ransomware, and even hybrid malware.

Examples of Virus Malware

The Melissa Virus wreaked havoc in 1999, costing an estimated $80 million in collective damages. Using social engineering techniques, David Lee Smith posted a Microsoft Word document online promising free access to adult content.

Once downloaded, the virus began taking over the targets’ Microsoft Word program before hacking Microsoft Outlook. It replicated by sending itself via email to the first 50 addresses on the victim’s mailing list. The virus was so powerful and widespread, infecting email servers of over 300 corporate and government organizations worldwide.

In 2017, a macro virus specifically targeted Apple Mac devices via a Microsoft Word file sent via email. When users ignored warnings and opened the document in a macros-enabled application, the malicious code downloaded, decrypted and executed an encrypted virus payload. Although not particularly sophisticated, this virus exploited the human factor, allowing hackers to monitor user activity, steal passwords, and access browser history.

How Does a Computer Virus Work?

Once a virus enters a computer, it attaches itself to a program, file, or software. It remains inactive until suitable circumstances arise to execute the malicious code. Basically, you have to run or open the infected program, software, or file for the virus to execute its code.

How Do Malware Viruses Spread?

Now that we’re continuously connected to the world through the internet and other means, virus malware can spread in several ways. 

It can move from one host to another via networks, discs, attachments, USBs, etc. While floppy disks were originally common virus carriers, email has taken over.

Today, it’s the go-to gateway for phishing and spoofing attacks. Hackers often send emails with links redirecting to a fake website or containing malicious, virus-loaded files. You can use EasyDMARC’s email investigation tool to detect and troubleshoot any potential issues. 

That said, malware viruses can also spread via internet file downloads, malicious links posted online, and audio, video, or image files. The only way to protect your devices from cyberattacks and viruses is to remain vigilant and implement the best cybersecurity practices

If you’re a website owner, protect your site from SEO spam malware too.

What are the Different Types of Malware Viruses?

All viruses have a payload that executes harmful actions. A payload contains malicious code that can damage a system or breach and corrupt data. Here are four main types of malware viruses:

Boot Sector Virus

A boot sector virus infects a hard disk’s Master Boot Record (MBR) or a system’s boot partition. Before security software is up and running during start-up, the virus executes its payload. It often spreads when you plug in an infected USB drive into your computer.

Web Scripting Virus

New browsers can typically detect malicious web pages. However, old browsers without this defense mechanism are susceptible to web scripting viruses. The malware can infect devices when accessing such a malicious web page. 

Browser Hijacker

This virus “hijacks” certain functions, changing your browsers’ favorites, homepage URL, search preferences, etc. If you’re frequently redirected to a malicious website, your data, and financial information may be under a hacker’s radar.

Resident Virus

A resident virus lies dormant, waiting for the execution of its payload when a specific file or program is run. It’s often hidden in a computer system’s memory.

How to Spot a Computer Virus?

A computer virus can show various symptoms. If you observe any of the following signs, call an expert.

  • Frequent pop-ups: Pop-ups redirect users to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious links. 
  • Unusual homepage changes: If you see changes in your default browser preferences, try to reset it. If the problem persists, your browser may be infected.
  • Bulk emails sent without your knowledge: Attackers may hack your email account using a virus and send malicious emails in your name.
  • Frequent crashes: A virus can impact your hard drive or device, causing it to crash or freeze. You may face challenges in rectifying it as well.

Slow computer: Malware viruses overwhelm CPUs by consuming a lot of space. This makes your computer sluggish and inoperable.

  • The trouble with turning on: If your computer shows atypical messages or programs upon starting up, it may have a virus.
  • Password changes: Viruses can even change your computer’s password so that you can’t log in.

How to Prevent Computer Viruses?

Always practice measures to prevent your system from common types of cyberattacks, including viruses. Start by taking the following steps to stay safe:

  • Use a credible antivirus program.
  • Install a strong firewall.
  • Get paid antispyware software.
  • Frequently update antivirus and antispyware for protection against new kinds of viruses.
  • Keep your operating system updated.
  • Add security to your browser.
  • Never visit suspicious and illegitimate websites.
  • Only download software and programs from trusted sources.
  • Avoid downloading any re-sharing application.
  • Don’t open messages and emails from unknown senders.
  • Immediately get rid of spam.

How to Contain a Malware Virus?

If you’ve detected a virus, disconnect from the internet immediately. This will ensure no further information is exported and the damage can be controlled. Delete all temporary files using ‘Disk Clean Up’ so the virus stops executing its code.

Change any computer, social media account, payment gateway, banking app, etc. passwords for extra security.

How to Remove a Malware Virus?

Back up all your important data before removing malware viruses. Follow the steps to remove it in Windows:

  • Go to ‘Settings’ and choose ‘Recovery’ under ‘Update & Security.’
  • Click on ‘Restart Now’ under ‘Advanced Startup.’ The system will restart. 
  • Choose ‘Troubleshoot.’
  • Go to ‘Advanced Options’ and click on ‘Startup Settings.’
  • Turn on the safe mode.
  • Run an on-demand virus scan.

Hold the shift button while your system boots up if you own a Mac device. Next, a ‘Safe Boot’ message will appear, and you can run the virus removal program afterward. Run the scanner multiple times until no virus prints are left.

Final Thoughts

What is virus malware, and what can you do about it? Now you know! 

Virus malware can hamper a computer system’s normal functions and destroy, modify, or steal data. The difference between a virus and malware is also worth noting. Malware is malicious software that can harm a target in many ways. A virus is a type of malware that replicates, spreading from host to host.

You can prevent a malware virus by installing credible antivirus software and antispyware. Never click on suspicious links or open emails from unknown senders. Overall, protect your organization by implementing best cybersecurity practices.

Various authors from EasyDMARC teams have contributed to our blog during company's lifetime. This author brings everyone together.


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