Five Types of Malware

And removal options


APRIL 20, 2021

Malware Removal Desktop

You close your garage and answer your video doorbell via smartphone app. You check to see whether you set your home security alarm via your tablet. You deposit checks and pay bills through your computer.

Modern-day technology offers incredible convenience, but it does come with a few downsides. Malware is one of the biggest threats to your computer and mobile devices. The term malware actually means “malicious software,” and online criminals can use different types of malware to gain control of your devices and steal data, lock you out of accounts, and generally disrupt your daily operations. Fortunately, many cybersecurity software programs can head off malware at the pass.

Different types of malware

What’s the difference between malware and a virus? What’s the difference between a virus vs a worm? And can a computer become infected with a virus via email? Here are five of the most common types of malware out there and how to detect whether it may be present on any of your systems:


A virus is a type of malware that spreads by infecting everything from your programs and apps to your files and emails. When you open an infected file, such as an email attachment, you activate the virus. Much like a ripple effect, you can easily pass that virus onto other computers via email, and the virus can rapidly spread to other applications on your system.


Unlike a virus, a worm is its own discrete program that can infect files once it gets into your system rather than relying on activation by a host to spread. Worms often spread undetected by targeting security and system vulnerabilities in your system.


This type of malware locks or encrypts your files so you cannot access them and then demands a ransom before it releases those files back to you. Large-scale ransomware attacks have shut entire health care and financial electronic systems down by infecting hundreds of thousands of devices.

On a smaller scale, ransomware may encrypt all your family photos or computer files and then demand payment, usually in the form of cryptocurrency, before returning your files. Keep in mind, however, that payment of ransom isn’t a guarantee you’ll be able to recover those files. For more information, including best practices to protect yourself against ransomware, visit the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s website.


Think of a bot as a zombie. Once your device becomes infected, it becomes the bot, and a criminal hacker can control that computer or device remotely. Bots can access your webcam, send spam or phishing emails to your contacts, and log your keystrokes to access financial data and passwords.


Spyware is exactly what it sounds: a stealthy program secretly installed on your computer that spies on you without your knowledge and collects your sensitive data, from passwords and internet browsing habits to financial data.

How to protect against and remove malware

There are many ways to safeguard your devices from all types of malware, and if your computer does become infected, there are also ways to remove the malicious software.

  • Keep operating systems current. You know that smartphone software installation that you keep putting off? Those security updates protect against nefarious activity. Make sure you’re always running the latest version of your device’s operating system.

  • Check that your internet browsers are up to date. Spyware and other types of malware can spread by targeting security vulnerabilities in out-of-date browsers.

  • Regularly back up files either to a cloud-based service, an external hard drive, or both.

  • Invest in good anti-virus software, and make sure your subscription stays current.

  • Check your hard drive space. A slow or sluggish computer could signify that your computer may be dealing with a worm, spyware, or a virus that’s replicating and eating up memory.

  • Uninstall any suspicious apps or programs on your computer or device, and run an antivirus program.

  • Consult with a computer technician if you continue to see issues with your device’s performance.

Understanding the types of malware and taking a few practical steps can go a long way toward protecting your digital data. And when you’re ready to get started protecting your home and physical property, Brinks Home™ can help.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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