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Malware is short for malware, malicious software. It refers to any code or software designed with the intent of harming computer systems, files, networks and users for nefarious reasons like stealing sensitive data, extorting money, or disrupting operations or services. Viruses, worms, spyware, ransomware, keyloggers, backdoor viruses and Trojan horses all fall under the malware umbrella.

The first example of malware was Elk Cloner, a program that spread through Apple II computers by inserting itself into floppy disks. It did not do any damage but it was the first step in a long journey that culminated in today’s malware-dominated threat landscape.

Backdoor viruses and Trojan horses are a type of malware that masquerades as legitimate software programs that, when activated after installation, performs malicious functions. They allow cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to a device and steal personal information, login credentials and files.

Spyware is software that gathers data and information on a system or user without their knowledge, often causing disruptions to operations. Cybercriminals use this information to steal financial or identity information.

Logic bombs or time bombs are concealed in programs that can be triggered by a user action or released at a predetermined date to cause damage and/or disrupt a network. The Morris worm in 1988, for instance, was an experiment that didn’t achieve its intended goal of finding out how large the internet was but resulted in an unintended denial of service attack on many devices and servers.