Malware, short for malicious software, is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malicious programs.
Malware is sometimes used broadly against government or corporate websites to gather guarded information, or to disrupt their operation in general. However, malware is often
used against individuals to gain information such as personal
identification numbers or details, bank or credit card numbers, and
Since the rise of widespread broadband Internet access, malicious software has more frequently been designed for profit. Since 2003, the majority of widespread viruses and worms have been designed to take control of users' computers for illicit purposes. Infected "zombie computers" are used to send email spam, to host contraband data such as child pornography, or to engage in distributed denial-of-service attacks as a form of extortion.
Ransomware affects an infected computer in some way, and demands payment to reverse the damage. For example, programs such as CryptoLocker encrypt files securely, and only decrypt them on payment of a substantial sum of money.
Various factors make a system more vulnerable to malware:
- Security defects in software
- Insecure design or user error
- Over-privileged users and over-privileged code
- Use of the same operating system