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Malware is short for “malicious software.” It is a term used to describe threatening computer programs that are designed to interfere with the normal functionality of a device. It may cause damage to the operating system, encrypt files, or hold the device hostage.

It can also steal sensitive personal and corporate information. It is used by attackers to infiltrate networks. In addition, it may be disguised as a legitimate program.

Malware is spread through email, file sharing, and social media. It can also be delivered through pop-up advertisements. Cybercriminals are using these methods to target users, extort money, and snoop on users’ online activity.

These malicious programs can be downloaded from unsecure websites. When users click on a link, it installs the virus on the host computer. The virus will then spread throughout the computer. Some viruses only operate when the user opens the program, while others can run in the background.

Another form of malware is spyware. It tracks a user’s activities, including passwords, credit card details, and banking information. It can then send this information to a malicious hacker.

Viruses can corrupt data and cause system crashes. They can also lock you out of your computer. Depending on the type of malware, they can encrypt files and demand a ransom. The ransom may be paid to restore access to the system.

Adware is another common form of malware. It often installs other malicious programs onto a user’s device. It can also track a user’s history, which can be useful in phishing attacks.