Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

Malware, Mal What?

This blog entry expired October 29, 2017. It may contain out-of-date information.

The what, why, and how of malware and what users everywhere should know.

What is malware? The term malware stands for malicious software, and is made up of two parts malicious attachments and software.

How does malware work? Malware works its way onto a computer or device, performs a malicious deed causing harm to the system, and attempts to spread to other devices through the computer or network. Malware takes many forms including viruses, ransomware, scareware, malicious adware, and spyware.

The common ways that malware can be transferred onto a computer are:

  • Unknowingly running a program that contains, or is, malware
  • Through a software vulnerability (malware can implant itself in weak software systems)
  • Over a network connection containing vulnerable software
  • Contaminated computer files (malware can insert itself within pdfs, Word documents and other files)

Why is it used? Malware is used to provide unwarranted access to cyber criminals, while causing harm to users. Generally, the overall goal with malware is to take control of a computer or system to accomplish a variety of tasks: access personal information, steal money, or harm a system.

Here are some simple steps that can help keep you and your devices protected against malware:

  • Regularly update the software on every device
  • Be cautious when opening emails, downloading attachments or clicking links from unknown sources
  • Install some sort of antivirus software on all devices to keep them protected

Malware can be damaging to users, computers and systems. It is important to be aware of what it is and what it does to better protect yourself. To learn more about how you can protect yourself from malware, visit the Stay Cyber Safe page on the IT website or contact the Solution Center with any security concerns you may have.