Malware is a term that is frequently used but frequently misapplied, so let’s first clarify its meaning. The term malware is short for malicious software, which accurately explains what this class of software is designed to do: to perform malicious and disruptive actions. Simply put, malware is any type of software that performs actions without the consent or knowledge of the system owner and results in a disruptive action or actions.

In past decades, what we now call malware was not so vicious in nature; it was more benign. Software in this class was able to infect, disrupt, disable, and in some cases corrupt software, including the operating system. However, it generally just annoyed and irritated system owners; nastier forms were rare.

In recent years, though, this software category has come to include applications that are much more malignant. Current malware is designed to stay stealthy in many cases and employs a myriad of features designed to thwart detection by the increasingly complex and accurate antimalware systems, such as antivirus software and antispyware. What hasn’t changed is the fact that malware consumes resources and power on a host system or network, all the while keeping the owner in the dark as to its existence and activities.

Making the situation worse in today’s world is that current malware types have been influenced by the criminal element. The creation of botnets () and theft of information are becoming all too common.

Another aspect of malware that has emerged is its use to steal information. Malware programs have been known to install what is known as a key logger on a system. The intention is to capture keystrokes as they’re entered, with the intention of gathering information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and similar information. For example, malware has been used to steal information from those engaging in online gaming, to obtain players’ game account information.

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