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Malware is software that attacks a device to steal information, damage it or change its function. Malware can attack computers, tablets and mobile devices. Some examples of malware include phishing, ransomware, keyloggers and spyware. Cybercriminals create and distribute malware to make money. They may earn money through ad clicks, spyware downloads, ransomware payments or by hijacking devices to mine crypto.

Malware gains initial access to your device by exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems, applications and stored files. These vulnerabilities might be unknown to your computer manufacturer, or they may have been created by coding errors, unsecured network protocols, unsafe server infrastructure or unpatched software on your device.

Once installed, malicious software might spy on you, modifying your web browsing experience, changing your app controls or downloading additional applications or updates without your consent. The most common ways to infect your device with malware are via direct downloads from the internet, email attachments or text messages, malicious links, external storage devices (USBs), file-sharing programs, social media platforms and torrents.

Once the malware gains access to your system, it might evade detection by taking advantage of memory code injections, time delays, device fingerprinting or other techniques that allow it to linger in your system for longer periods of time. It might also take advantage of privileged accounts and passwords to gain control over your apps and data or change security settings to disable your device’s protections. This can cause your device to slow down or become unstable.