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Malware is malicious software that infects, disrupts or steals private information from computer systems. It can also be used for extortion, fraud and identity theft.

How Malware Works

The Internet is full of malicious code that can be hidden in all sorts of files, including videos, photos, software and more. When you download these files, the malware can infect your computer without your knowledge.

Another way malware is spread is by using email and messaging apps. If your email account is hacked, hackers can send you spam that contains infected attachments or links to malicious websites. These emails are designed to trick you into clicking them.

Some malware is spread by inserting an infected USB drive into your computer, but most infections are spread by sending malware via email or messaging apps. You should never open an unknown email or click on a link that comes from someone you don’t know.

Viruses, worms and trojans are among the most common forms of malware. Unlike viruses, which need to be attached to a program or activated by a user to spread, worms are self-contained programs that replicate themselves and infect other computers on a network. These malicious programs can modify and delete files, inject more malware or replicate in place until the targeted system runs out of resources. They can even shut down a device or network, preventing users from accessing their data and information. A typical worm can infect a network of thousands of computers, creating a botnet.