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Malware refers to any invasive code or software designed to damage programmable devices and services, often by stealing information like login credentials and credit card numbers. It can take many forms and spread in a variety of ways, including through email attachments and P2P file sharing networks.

Malicious code can be hidden in a wide range of applications and operating systems, and it can affect any device with an Internet connection, from desktop computers to smart TVs and mobile phones. Despite the different types of malware, all variants are designed to compromise the security and privacy of users.

The days when most malware was created by teenage pranksters are long gone, and today’s cybercriminals use the technology to steal and profit from sensitive information from victims. This data can include financial details, healthcare records and personal emails, and it may be used for extortion and fraud.

Infections spread in a variety of ways, with the most common method being through an email attachment containing malicious code that’s opened by unsuspecting users. Peer to peer (P2P) file sharing networks can also introduce malware, as well as malicious URLs inserted into legitimate online advertising networks and webpages.

Once installed, the different types of malware will cause a variety of symptoms on infected devices. IT and security staff may notice that performance is slowing down, devices are crashing or they’re displaying a lot of pop-ups. They may also see unusual activity on the network, such as processes using more bandwidth than usual or devices communicating with untrusted servers. Some malware strains will hide in system files, spoof legitimate processes and disable security solutions to avoid detection.