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Malware is any software designed to disrupt a computer system, server, tablet or mobile device. It can steal or damage data, gain unauthorized access to systems or networks, display annoying or malicious ads or spy on system activities without the user’s knowledge or permission.

Like human flu, malware comes in a variety of forms with different purposes for the attackers: making money, sabotage, political or social commentary, or simply bragging rights. The most common form of malware is viruses, which are self-replicating and can infect computers, servers, tablets or mobile devices. They can also leak private information or hijack and reroute online traffic.

A more targeted type of malware is a trojan horse, which masquerades as a harmless program and is used to gain unauthorized access to your system. This type of malware can also steal data, encrypt files or shut down the system and can even install one of many types of malware.

Another type of malware is a worm, which mimics a virus in that it can replicate itself but also can infect other programs and machines. This type of malware can corrupt files, disable an operating system or take up storage space.

Hackers also use other tools, such as rootkits, which hide a system’s operating functions and allow attackers to take complete control of a device. Other types of malware include ransomware, which encrypts files and demands a payment from users; cryptojacking, which uses a victim’s device to verify transactions on blockchain networks and earn cryptocurrency; and fileless attacks, which use scripts or macros in Microsoft applications to steal passwords or change configurations.