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Malware is any software that harms or exploits a programmable device, server, system, or network. It also includes computer programs threat actors use to steal information like credit card numbers, medical records, passwords, and personal emails. In some cases, attackers use malware to gain unauthorized access to corporate systems and data networks in order to commit fraud or ransomware attacks.

Cybercriminals can spread malware using a variety of methods, including USB drives, popular collaboration tools, and instant messaging platforms. Viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware are all types of malware. Each uses different attack techniques to infect devices and systems. Typically, they must rely on a user clicking an infected link, opening an attachment, or visiting an infected website to get the software onto their devices.

Once malware is on your device, it starts to work behind the scenes, stealing files or data, encrypting your information, or installing additional malicious software. A RAT (remote access Trojan) creates backdoors for attackers to access a system later, while a banking Trojan or keylogger can steal credentials or capture keyboard strokes as users interact with online banking and other financial services. Logic bombs, or time bombs, are another type of malware that lay dormant until a certain date or event triggers them to execute.

The most obvious sign of malware is a device that is slowing down or crashing without any apparent reason. Infected devices can also consume a lot of processing and storage resources, leaving less power available for other programs and services. IT support staff might notice that devices are communicating with untrusted servers or attempting to bypass security solutions.