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Malware is any malicious software that harms or exploits a computer system, network, tablet, laptop, or mobile device. It allows cybercriminals to steal valuable personal information, run distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), or mine cryptocurrency for their benefit.

Cybercriminals can use malware for many reasons, but one thing is for sure: it won’t work without the main ingredient – you! You have to be gullible enough to click on an email attachment that doesn’t look right or install something from an untrustworthy source. And even if you do take precautions, the installer may offer you extra software – called bundleware or potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) – that you don’t really need.

Once malware takes root, it hides quietly in the background, stealing passwords and other sensitive data. It can even cause devices to slow down or crash.

A few of the most common types of malware are viruses, worms, bots, spyware, ransomware, and RATs. Viruses attach themselves to other programs or files, and once activated, they replicate and spread until they reach their maximum limit of copies or they consume all available resources. Worms, on the other hand, exploit security vulnerabilities and automatically spread without affecting existing programs or altering files.

A RAT, or remote administration tool, provides attackers with privileged access to infected systems. They can also remain hidden from other software on the victim’s system, the operating system itself, and even the user. And finally, a spyware program secretly observes the behavior of the infected device and sends this data back to the cybercriminal, often including sensitive information such as usernames and passwords.