Cyber attacks are taking their toll, so many people are advised to pay more attention to cybersecurity. As technology improves, so do cybercriminals.
What differences can we find while comparing malware vs ransomware? How can they damage your computer? They can impair the system processes, delete your files, steal your information, and cost you money.
These two are often used interchangeably, which is a misconception. In fact, malware is most often used as an umbrella term that comprises ransomware and other malicious software, such as spyware and viruses. Let’s dive deeper and discover their differences.
Malware is the general term for all programs designed to harm, disrupt, or hack devices. What’s more, they can do so without authorized access. These programs act as inside agents, hiding in emails, attachments, and programs. Clicking on suspicious links and downloading untrusted files gives them access and control of your system. While you can remove some of them with antivirus software, others are more persistent and require more intricate approaches.
Types of Malware
Malware stands for all types of malicious programs and codes. If you didn’t know, malicious code is the code embedded in a web script or a software system with the intent of causing security breaches, network overload, data theft, system damage, and other undesired effects. Let’s not forget that the US has the highest number of breaches worldwide.
Knowing the difference between malware vs virus and other harmful programs might help you prevent these attacks from happening, so let’s move on to their typology.
Different malware types are designed to accomplish different objectives, such as hacking sensitive data, harming the computer, or disrupting its processes. While they all put your computer’s safety at risk, some are more dangerous than others. The malware types include:
Here is a list of some of the most common malware types:
- Ransomware example — RobinHood
It blocks all city activities, like property transfers, government email, and tax collection.
- Trojan example — Emotet
This is a hard-to-fight banking Trojan that is persistent and involves spreader modules.
- Spyware example — DarkHotel
It targets government and business leaders that use hotel Wi-Fi and gets access to their systems. The malware Wi-Fi victim is typically an influential person.
- Adware example — Fireball
It makes browsers change their default search engines and traces web activity.
- Rootkit example — Zacinlo
It infects systems when users download a fake VPN application. It is meant to trick behavioral analysis software.
- Worm example — Stuxnet
It interferes with industrial controllers managing the uranium enrichment process. It is believed that this worm was developed to set back Iran’s nuclear program.
Generally speaking, ransomware is a subcategory of malware that targets individuals or organizations. It encrypts their data and keeps it hostage while demanding a ransom. Statistics show that organizations pay an average ransom of $233,217.
Once the payment is made, the hacker sends a decryption key which restores access to the hacked data. Hackers often set a deadline and demand payments in cryptocurrency, usually bitcoin.
So don’t wait for such an attack to happen; make sure you are always equipped with the best ransomware protection.
Types of Ransomware
Cybercriminals use several kinds of ransomware vectors to access a system. Understanding these vectors can help you protect your device from ransomware attacks. Here are the three most prevalent ones:
- Email phishing: Cybercriminals send employees emails that seem to come from trusted sources through social engineering tactics. The emails ask for the employee’s credentials or to download malware onto the system.
- Remote desktop protocol (RDP): Microsoft has designed this protocol to allow users to connect and remotely execute system commands. RDP security is tightly dependent on strong passwords.
- Software vulnerabilities: Unpatched software endangers security, leaving the door open for a malware attack.
There are several ransomware variants that cybercriminals use to target a business. Some of the most common ones are:
- Locky: It spreads through emails with an infected Microsoft Word file.
- GandCrab: It uses social engineering tactics and targets vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system.
- CryptoLocker: It gets employees to download ransomware and infect networks.
- Petya: It infects the master boot record to encrypt hard drive files and deliver a payload. It targets Windows-based systems.
- Reveton: Often referred to as the “Police Trojan,” it tricks users into thinking they have committed a crime and that the police have locked their computer.
Malware vs Ransomware — A Detailed Overview
|Variety||worms, bugs, viruses, Trojans, spyware, spammers, scareware, rootkits, ransomware, crypto-jacking||email phishing, remote desktop protocol, software vulnerabilities|
|Delivery Method||emails, links, suspicious websites, USB, app installations||malicious attachments through phishing emails|
|Impact||It can reduce system performance and control resources and data, but it doesn’t typically destroy a business.||It is often severe, causing many businesses to close their operations.|
|Ease of Removal||Moderate, as antivirus software can usually remove it.||Exceptionally difficult, as victims have to pay the ransom or restore from known backup.|
Malware vs Ransomware vs Virus
While malware is a general term that describes any type of malicious software, it also encompasses ransomware and viruses.
Depending on the type, malware can cause different kinds of damage to a device. It can control and steal data, use the computer’s resources, or destroy the system. It spreads through software installation, emails, and web surfing. In the first half of 2021, as much as 75% of all malware was delivered by email.
When comparing malware vs viruses, we can say that the latter represent malicious codes attached to specific documents. They may reformat a hard drive, degrade the performance of a device, and corrupt data. Viruses spread when people exchange or download files or visit harmful websites. However, they can also be harmless in some instances.
On the other hand, ransomware locks the system and blocks data access until a ransom is paid. It spreads through attachments within phishing emails.
Spyware vs Malware vs Ransomware vs Threatware
Spyware is silent malware that creeps through your passwords, files, and other sensitive data and extracts your information and uses it for malicious purposes. It can be harmless if an employer uses it to monitor their employees’ activities. However, cybercriminals can also use spyware to steal passwords and log into social media accounts or emails, posting or sending damaging information.
Threatware meaning doesn’t differ from malware: both are umbrella terms for programs that can steal data and harm devices, such as worms, bugs, viruses, Trojans, and spyware.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts or locks down your computer, demanding a ransom in exchange. These attacks may also lock down your entire network system. Moreover, ransomware is loud — it often displays warning signs or a timer indicating when your computer will crash.
Ransomware vs Malware vs Phishing
Malware represents a severe threat to businesses. Its varieties are complex and, therefore, hard to notice and remove. The main difference between them and phishing is that the latter is the delivery method.
A phishing attack is a social engineering technique in which an attacker sends an email to make victims reveal corporate or personal information. Furthermore, the attackers usually act as legitimate sources to persuade their targets.
Typically, ransomware or other malware attacks involve a victim clicking a link or downloading an email attachment, allowing the unwanted software to enter the device.
Malware vs Virus vs Worm vs Trojan
While malware serves as an all-encompassing term for worms, viruses, and Trojans, these last three are far from similar.
For example, a worm can replicate and spread from one computer to another. On the other hand, a user or software has to send a virus from one device to another so that it can spread. Finally, rather than replicate, the Trojan’s goal is to capture some crucial data about a computer network or system.
So what is the main difference between a virus and a Trojan? Each type of malware has different objectives. While Trojans aim to steal information, viruses have the purpose of modifying it. As opposed to these two, worms aim to use the system’s resources.
Trojans and worms can also be controlled remotely, which isn’t the case with viruses. Moreover, the three have different spreading rates: worms multiply faster than viruses, while Trojans have the slowest spreading rate.
Virus vs Malware vs Worm
As we mentioned, malware is an umbrella term covering all harmful software, including viruses and worms. On the other hand, viruses can spread between computers while hiding inside files. Then, they can delete and change them, or even reformat the hard drive. For a virus to be activated, a person has to trigger it with an external action, which isn’t the case with a worm.
When looking at virus vs worm differences, unlike the former, the worm can run and spread itself on other devices without people opening files or clicking links. Therefore, if your network covers many connected computers, a worm may be more dangerous than a virus.
However, since computers in an organization’s network interact more with the Internet than they do with each other, viruses can be as dangerous as worms. For instance, if several users visit one site and download a virus to their computers, all of those computers get infected.
Virus vs Malware vs Spyware
Since malware is a general term covering all malicious software, it also covers viruses and spyware. Viruses are programs that attach themselves to your software or data. In fact, for a virus to be activated, a person has to trigger it with an external action.
On the other hand, spyware attempts to access your computer without your knowledge to monitor your activities. Although we can’t talk about malware vs spyware as the former covers the latter, we can definitely mention the difference between viruses and spyware.
While the primary goal of viruses is to alter the information, spyware aims to observe the device’s activity. Moreover, viruses tend to be more harmful than spyware because they can control resources and data, destroy systems, cause errors, and slow down device performance. In contrast, spyware gives profit to a third party by collecting the user’s data without their knowledge. It’s also important to mention that a virus replicates itself, while spyware doesn’t.
Malware vs Ransomware — Final Words
Malware encompasses all malicious software, and ransomware or viruses are only some of its subcategories. The key to staying safe from these and other malware types is equipping your device with an antivirus or a virtual private network, such as Avast VPN. Unfortunately, two in ten Internet users don’t protect themselves from cybercrime, according to statistics.
Whether we talk about malware vs viruses or other kinds of harmful software, cybersecurity awareness is of utmost importance for a healthy business. Users should keep in mind that even the strongest protection can’t save them from unintentionally leaving the doors open for attacks. Even in the event of an email coming from a familiar sender, always confirm whether it was really that person who sent the message.
People Also Ask
What is malware?
Malware is the general term for all the programs designed to disrupt, harm, or hack devices. Most often, they do so without authorized access. In addition, these programs act as inside agents and make you download a program, email, or an attachment, which enables them to gain control of your system. Most common malware types include worms, bugs, viruses, Trojans, spyware, spammers, scareware, rootkits, ransomware, and crypto-jacking.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware targeting individuals or organizations. More specifically, it encrypts their data, keeping it hostage and demanding the victims pay a ransom. After it is paid, the hacker sends a decryption key, restoring access to the hacked data. More often than not, hackers set a deadline and demand to be paid in cryptocurrency. The three most dangerous ransomware vectors are email phishing, remote desktop protocol (RDP), and software vulnerabilities.
What’s worse, malware or ransomware?
Ransomware is a subcategory of malware that is not easy to eradicate. Its impact is usually long-lasting and severe, leading to shutdowns in business operations. Other kinds of malware generally don’t target and destroy businesses. They are also easier to get rid of than ransomware since the regular antivirus software can do it. Removing ransomware most often requires the victims to pay the ransom or restore their data from backup.
What is the difference between viruses and malware?
A piece of malware is a program that gains access to computer systems, usually to benefit a third party without the user’s permission. Since malware covers all harmful software, it also includes viruses. The most common viruses are malicious codes attached to executable documents that often modify or delete data. While some benign variants do exist, it is crucial to take action whenever you notice suspicious activity on your device.
Can malware cause ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents you from accessing your system, computer files, or networks and demanding you pay ransom in return. These attacks may lead to costly disruptions to operations and the loss of vital data.
Moreover, you can unintentionally download ransomware by following a link, clicking an ad, opening an email attachment, or visiting a malware-infected website. When the code is loaded, it blocks access to the computer or files. When comparing malware vs ransomware attacks, the biggest difference is that other kinds of malware can harm your device or damage the data within, while ransomware can prevent you from accessing both.