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Malware is a blanket term for viruses, worms, trojan horses and other malicious programs that can harm your privacy, steal your data, or gain control of a computer. Each type of malware attacks in a unique way. Some attack through your browser; others exploit system or software vulnerabilities to gain access directly.

Some malware, such as adware or a trojan horse, can be difficult to detect. Other malware uses obvious tactics such as encrypting your files and demanding a ransom payment. Ransomware is the latest trend, with attacks increasing 365 percent this year.

In addition to stealing your personal information, malware can also infect your devices with cryptominers or other forms of malicious code designed to steal computing power and currency. In some cases, malware is even more sophisticated and has evolved to avoid detection by a variety of security tools. Examples include evasion techniques that manipulate the code to avoid signature-based detection; anti-sandbox methods that delay execution and elude security analysis; polymorphic malware that continually changes its underlying code to evade a sandbox; and fileless malware that resides in memory instead of in a hard disk drive.

Although different types of malware use different methods to attack, they all require one thing: a user willing to click on a link in an email or download a program from an untrustworthy source. Most infections start with emails, instant messaging or social media apps – and mobile device malware can be spread through official platform app stores as well.