Ever wonder, what is the difference between malware and spyware? While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not, in fact, the same thing. A few subtle differences distinguish these two types of software, although both are typically irritating and can potentially be harmful.
Spyware programs are pretty much exactly what you think.
Spyware programs monitor your Web browsing habits or personal data and send information back to the source that originates them. One example of spyware is data mining cookies that track your Web browsing and report your favorite Web sites and viewing patterns to a third party.
Spyware makes it possible for advertisers to target their advertising to your viewing habits and also to form more effective advertising campaigns online. While this type of spyware does collect and send data, it doesn't harm you in any way.
Malware programs can harm your computer.
Malware stands for malicious software, and these programs can actually harm your computer. Malicious software programs do everything from deleting files and corrupting programs to recording passwords and sensitive personal information and sending the information to a third party. Malware programs are typically a much more serious software concern, as they can actually damage your computer or help criminals steal your identity.
What is the difference between malware and spyware?
It can be difficult to distinguish between spyware and malware because they tend to come in similar packaging. Both spyware and malware can be dropped from your favorite Web site, or they can be installed in the guise of software purporting to do something else. While the one is relatively harmless and the other can be extremely harmful, the similarity in transmission method makes you equally likely to pick up one or the other. Ultimately, the steps you take to protect yourself from spyware can also protect you from malware, and vice versa.
Software can be both spyware and malware.
While spyware and malware programs are technically two different things, it's possible for them to cross the boundary and be both. Programs that would typically fall under the guise of spyware, such as data mining programs, could theoretically also corrupt your system with the addition of a little malicious code. However, at that point, spyware ceases being solely spyware and becomes malware, which can seriously damage your system.
Protection and prevention for spyware and malware involves the same process.
Because spyware and malware are typically packaged in a similar way, the same precautions that protect you from one can protect you from the other. Never download software from a source you don't know and trust. Beware of security certificates that don't match up when you're surfing the Web. Use anti-spyware and anti-virus programs, and keep the security definitions up-to-date. Finally, practice safe Web browsing; don't enable ActiveX controls if you don't know and trust the content provider, and avoid Web sites that don't provide what they say they provide because they typically deliver malicious software.
You may have a good security system installed on your computer, but you are still vulnerable to a malware attack if you have a habit of downloading items of unknown origin.
What is the definition of malware? The word "malware" means "malicious software," but malware can cause many different types of problems on your computer.