The Different Types of Malware and What They Can Do

The Different Types of Malware

Malware stands for malicious software and is used to describe computer programs that are specifically designed to infiltrate a network or computer to damage it or gain information within it. There are many different types of malware that can impact your devices in different ways, but each one can still badly affect your computers and your business.

Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself and your business from these harmful programs, with Zeta Sky being a third-party IT service that can protect the devices in your small business by implementing firewalls, anti-virus and other cyber security techniques while also providing a plethora of other useful IT needs.

There are many varieties of malware you need to be looking for. Understanding them and learning how they can infect a computer is a good way to prepare against them and limit your chances of being a victim. Here are some of the most common, most effective, and most dangerous versions of malware:


Viruses are usually spread via infected websites or email downloads and need an already infected operating system or program to be effective. They only begin to work when the file they’ve infected is activated, and once this happens, they’re able to replicate themselves and spread throughout your systems and devices.

Viruses can also spread to other people’s devices by using your apps to send infected files to colleagues and friends and clients on your behalf via email or other messaging services. As these are coming from what appears to be a trustworthy source — you — it makes infecting others more likely.

The most common types of viruses are those in a ‘.exe’ file extension, so to avoid issues, make sure to never click these from unknown sources. However, there are plenty of other file extensions a virus can use, so they can be really hard to spot before it’s too late.

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Worms are spread most often via phishing attacks, and once they’re installed into your computer’s memory, it starts to infect the whole machine, and in worst cases, your entire network.

Depending on the type of worm and the security measures you have in place to deal with it, they can do significant damage, including, but not limited to:

  • Deleting and modifying your files
  • Continuously replicating to overwhelm the system resources, slowing down, or crashing your PC
  • Installing an avenue for hackers to access your computer
  • Stealing your data


Inspired by the trojan horse story of Greek legend, trojans are malicious programs that disguise themselves as legitimate files, using their trustworthy appearance to get users to download it. They most commonly masquerade as game downloads or anti-virus software, and act like a doorway to allow hackers in. Once it’s in your devices they can:

  • Harvest your device as part of a botnet
  • Spy on your device
  • Delete, modify, and capture your data
  • Access your network


Ransomware is a particularly evil version of malware because instead of accessing your files and using its information, it denies and restricts access to your files by locking it away, essentially making that computer unusable. It then demands payment, usually via crypto currency such as bitcoin, in return for promising access back to your device.

Ransomware is particularly dangerous for businesses, with one specific piece of ransomware called WannaCry which shut down 200,000 computers and spread across 150 different countries.

To reduce the risk of ransomware it’s important to always keep your operating system up to date as well as your antivirus, so that it can detect the newest version of this malware. Also, make sure to back up important files so that if you are attacked, you can still access your data via another means, and don’t open attachments from unknown sources as this is how it spreads.


Spyware is a version of malware that secretly records your online activity, harvesting data such as your login details, passwords, and bank account information. It’s quite a common form of malware and is often used to carry out identity and credit card theft.

Once installed, spyware can relay your information to both advertisers and cyber criminals and even install additional malware that can make changes to your settings.

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