What is malware, and how does it work?

April 6th · 9 min read

Guardio Research Team
Guardio Research Team

Malware comes in many shapes and forms, each with its own set of goals. All malware strains, however, have two things in common: they are clever and working against your interests.

"Malware" is a computer virus that causes problems, and its main goal is to harm your computer. Malwares appear in various forms such as Adware, spyware, viruses, botnets, Trojans, worms, rootkits, ransomware and more.

It is also worth noting that malware isn't limited to computers; it can also be found on mobile phones.

Malware VS computer virus

Viruses are a type of harmful software that replicate and distribute themselves through the incorporation of their code into other files or programs, then spread from one infected machine to the next. Examine how it works to see if it's another form of malware or a virus. It can't be called a virus until it uses additional applications to replicate and distribute.

What are the consequences of malware infection?

Malware attack can have different consequences, but the most common ones are as follows:

  • your device may start working slowly.

  • you may see more ads than usual.

  • your personal data may be stolen.

  • your computer may be used to launch cyberattacks against others.

What are the warning signals that your computer has been infected?

Many types of malware display the same warning signs. On your device, keep an eye on the following symptoms of a possible malware infection:

Browser redirects: malware can hijack your web browser and redirect you to websites that aren't related to the one you were attempting to visit.

· Unexpected pop-ups: malicious software may try to trick you into clicking on pop-ups that contain deceptive content, such as offers for free software or updates.

· Random text: malware may insert random text into your files or change the appearance of existing text.

· New icons: malware can add new icons to your device without your permission.

· Different home page: malware can replace your default homepage with a different website.

· Changed search results: malware may change the results of your online searches.

· Unusual computer behavior: if your computer is suddenly behaving in a way that you do not recognize, it may be infected with malware.

Why do hackers use malware?

· Extortion: malware can be used to hold your device or for data ransom, demanding payment to release them.

· Data theft: malware can be used to steal your personal information, such as passwords, social security number and credit card details.

· Spying: malware can be used to spy on your activities, monitoring everything your word, plans and everything else you do on your device.

· Computer hijacking: malware can be used to take control of your device, turning it into a "bot" that is used to launch cyberattacks against other computers.

· DDoS attacks: malware can be used to overload websites and online services with requests, causing them to crash or become unavailable.

· Crypto Thief: malware can be used to steal your cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, by taking control of your device and using it to mine the coins.

The most common types of malware attacks

Viruses, trojans, spyware, keyloggers, worms, ransomware, adware, scareware, rootkits, crypto miners, and logic bombs are a few of the most common forms of malware. The types are based on the different ways and means a malware works and spreads.


Trojans are one of the most common types of malwares. Named after the Trojan horse from the Greek mythology, these programs are deceiving users into installing them with the promise of some desirable functionality. However, once installed, Trojans instead perform malicious activities such as stealing data or hijacking computers for criminal purposes.


Worms are a type of malware that replicate and spread themselves through the network. They do this by exploiting security vulnerabilities in systems or by using social engineering techniques to trick users into installing them. Worms can cause a great deal of damage as they can rapidly infect a large number of devices.


Computer viruses are probably the best-known type of malware. As the name suggests, they infect devices by inserting themselves into programs or files and then replicating and spreading themselves to other devices. Viruses are often used to extort money from users or to steal data.

  • Router viruses: a new type of virus that targets routers and networking devices. Once infected, these devices can be used to launch DDoS attacks against other networks or to spy on traffic passing through them.

· Macro viruses: a type of virus that infects documents, usually spread through email attachments. When the document is opened, the virus runs and infects the computer.


Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to your device or data until a ransom is paid. The ransom may be in the form of money, but some ransomware variants also demand bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies. If you don't pay the ransom, the malware can often delete your data or encrypt it so that you can't access it anymore.


Adware is a type of malware that displays advertising content on your device without your permission. It can be very annoying and intrusive and can also lead to other malware infections as it often includes security vulnerabilities.


Spyware is a type of malware that spies on your activities and steals your personal information. It can track everything you do on your device, including your web browsing history, passwords, and credit card details.


Keyloggers are a type of malware that tracks the keys you press on your keyboard. This information can then be used to steal your passwords and other personal data.

Logic Bombs

Logic bombs are a type of malware that is designed to execute a specific action when a certain condition is met. They can be used to damage or destroy data, or to take control of a computer.


Adware is a type of malware that displays advertising content on your device without your permission. It can be very annoying and intrusive and can also lead to other malware infections as it often includes security vulnerabilities.


Rootkits are a type of malware that provides unauthorized access to a device, allowing the attacker to take control of it. They are often used to hide other malware infections and can be difficult to detect and remove.

Crypto miners

Crypto miners are a type of malware that uses your device's CPU or GPU to mine cryptocurrencies. This can cause your device to overheat and damage it.


A botnet is a collection of compromised devices that are controlled by a single attacker. Botnets can be used to launch DDoS attacks, send spam, or steal data.

Browser hijackers

Browser hijackers are a type of malware that hijacks your web browser to redirect you to websites you did not intend to visit. They can also change your default search engine, the home page, and other browser settings.


Scareware is a type of malware that tries to scare you into paying for unnecessary security products or services. It often masquerades as antivirus or anti-spyware program but is actually a scam.

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How does malware operate?

When the malware is installed, it uses one of three methods to get you to download and install it on your PC: a link, an attachment, or a website that has been compromised by malware. Clicking a link, opening an attachment, or going to a malware-infected website are examples of how the program may persuade you to download and install it on your computer. After the software is on your computer, its payload begins the execution for which it was designed, meaning to steal your data, encrypt your files, and add new malware among other things.

Malware will stay on your computer until it is discovered and eliminated by the security means you have on your computer. Some harmful malware will also attempt to avoid or conceal from antivirus software or any other security solutions you may have.

Different types of malware attacks

Malware comes in many different shapes and sizes, and each type has its own unique methods of attack.

· Pop-up alerts: a common way for malware to get installed on your computer is by using pop-up alerts. The alerts can be very convincing, often appearing to be from a legitimate source such as your antivirus software. However, if you click the "Download" or "Install" button in the alert, you will install the malware on your computer.

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· Phishing emails: phishing emails are emails that attempt to trick you into providing your personal information such as passwords or credit card details. The emails may appear to be from a legitimate source, but if you click the link or attachment, you will install malware on your computer.

· Malicious websites: malicious websites are websites that have been compromised by malware and are used to infect visitors' computers with malware. The websites can be very convincing and may even look like the real thing. If you visit one of these websites, you will install malware on your computer without knowing it.

· Attached files: malware can also be installed on your computer by opening an attached file. The file may appear to be something that you recognize, such as a document or photo, but if you open it, you will install the malware on your computer.

· Exploits: malware can also be installed on your computer through exploits. Malicious software can exploit security vulnerabilities in your computer's operating system or applications in order to install itself.

How to prevent malware infection

There are several things you can do to help protect your computer from malware infection.

· Install antivirus software: antivirus software is essential for protecting your computer from malware. Make sure you have a good antivirus program and keep it up to date.

· Update your software: make sure you keep all your software, including your operating system and web browsers, up to date. Many of the latest malware attacks take advantage of known security vulnerabilities and bugs that are fixed with updates of the providers.

· Do not open attachments or click links: be incredibly careful and concerned about opening attachments or clicking links in emails, especially if they are from unknown senders. If you do not know what the content of the attachment is, or if the email looks suspicious, do not open it.

· Be careful of websites: be careful when browsing the internet and only visit websites that you trust. Don't visit any websites that look suspicious or that you don't intend to visit.

· Use a firewall: a firewall is a software that helps protect your computer from unauthorized access and attacks. Make sure your firewall is turned on and is configured to protect your computer.

· Be vigilant: always be aware of the signs of a malware infection and be prepared to act if you think your computer may be infected.

What should you do if your computer has been infected with malware?

If you think your computer has been infected with malware, there are several things you can do to help protect your computer and recover your files.

· Scan your computer with antivirus software: scanning your computer with antivirus software is the best way to detect and remove any malware that may be installed on your computer.

· Restore your computer to a previous state: if you think the malware may have caused damage to your computer, you can restore it to a previous state using System Restore. This will restore your computer to the state it was in before the malware infection occurred.

· Backup your files: it is always a good idea to back-up your important files regularly. If your computer is infected with malware, your files may be damaged or lost. Having a backup of your files will help you to ensure that you do not lose any important data.

With so many forms of malware, it is practically impossible to avoid them all. However, by following these simple tips, you can reduce your chances of becoming infected.

The best protection against malware is decent antivirus software. Bundled with extra benefits, Guardio goes beyond antivirus to provide comprehensive security and privacy solution. Ensure that you are secure from all types of malware, phishing attempts, and dangerous websites by using Guardio.

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