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Malware is software that’s designed to invade and damage PCs, mobile devices, tablet computers, and network systems. The motivations behind malware vary from extortion to cyberwarfare and international espionage. Malware can steal data, corrupt files, disrupt or hijack core computer functions, and encrypt or delete sensitive information. It can even hijack or remotely control devices such as smart speakers and cameras.

Viruses, worms, Trojans, rootkits, spyware, ransomware, and more are all types of Malware. The best way to prevent malware is to practice good cybersecurity hygiene. This includes being careful when downloading files from the internet, avoiding suspicious websites, and not clicking on suspect links in emails.

Many of today’s most dangerous forms of malware employ advanced evasion and obfuscation techniques that can fool users as well as security administrators and antimalware tools. Examples include polymorphic malware that automatically changes its underlying code to avoid detection; anti-sandbox techniques that detect when malware is being analyzed and delay execution until after the analysis has completed; and “fileless” malware, which hides in memory rather than in the system’s file system to avoid detection.

Malware threats can target almost any device or operating system, but desktop and laptop computers running Windows tend to be the most targeted platforms. Malware also targets poorly secured smart devices, especially Android and Linux-based Internet of Things (IoT) devices.