Malware, or malicious software, is designed to infiltrate your computer and mobile devices to perform unauthorized activities. Examples of malicious software include viruses, computer worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and scareware.
Malware is spread over the Internet using various methods, including e-mails, pop-ups, compromised websites, infected apps and instant messaging. Once your device has been compromised, your personal information may be exposed to criminals as the malicious software may allow them to monitor your keystrokes, scan through the files on your hard drive, read cookies or open applications and transmit your information to others.
If your device has been infected with malicious software, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- The system performance may be negatively affected which will cause your computer to slow, crash or freeze.
- You may have difficulty accessing the Internet.
- Your Internet browser may have changes to the toolbar(s) and could re-direct you to other websites.
- Your data usage on your phone spikes.
- You notice an app on your phone that you don't remember downloading.
There are different variations of malicious software. Some of the most common types include:
- Trojan horses – this looks like software that performs a desirable function, but once downloaded onto your computer, it may allow unauthorized access to your computer system.
- Spyware – also known as tracking software, is an application that gathers information about you without your knowledge. The primary function of these applications is to collect personal information stored on your computer and monitor websites you visit and items you purchase online. Spyware has become the number one threat on the Internet surpassing spam or virus infections.
- Scareware – is typically an Internet pop-up message that is designed to alarm you and provoke you into downloading what you believe to be information or software that will help.
- Malicious apps – these malware infected apps are designed to do a number of things including steal your personal information, record your phone conversations, subscribe you to services or send text messages.