What Is the Difference Between Malware and Virus – Both Terms Are Used Interchangeably

Issues like hacking, malicious websites, malware, and viruses aren’t anything new. If you have a website or even just visit websites, then you might have come across these issues.

Both malware and virus are often used interchangeably. However, they are technically different.

Malware is used to describe all types of malicious software. For example, malware can infect websites, and other malware can infect smartphones and computers. However, for both website malware and computer malware, the motive is to do damage and to use the host’s resources. Technically speaking, a virus is a type of malware, but malware isn’t a virus.

Let’s get into details and look at what’s malware, a virus, the important differences between them, and much more.

Malware vs Virus – What Are They?

Malware is an umbrella term that refers to any malicious software – this includes a range of threats, such as worms, spyware, Trojans, malicious programs, bots, along with viruses. Cybercriminals make use of malware with the sole motive of damaging websites or stealing critical information from a website. Through malware, hackers usually take advantage of website security flaws. Also known as a website vulnerability, injecting malware can have several negative impacts, such as annoying pop-up windows on any website’s opening to critical issues such as identity theft or financial loss.

On the other hand, a virus is designed to copy itself and spread on other devices as much as possible – it hosts & self-replicates and then infects new hosts.

Nonetheless, what the virus does depends upon its sophistication level. For instance, one malicious code is enough to delete essential files from a hard disk. And the more complex virus can even hide within your network and does unauthorized activity, such as spamming.

Here’s Why Malware & Viruses Are Confused For Each Other

Those who have questions such as “what’s the difference between malware and a virus” or whether they’re the same or different, then don’t worry. You aren’t the only one. Mainly both malware and virus are used interchangeably due to already established names. For instance, cable TV is useful for recording digital video, but many still refer to the recording part as “taping.”

Malware was first labeled as “viruses” in the 1970s. The first antimalware program came into existence in the 1980s – 1990s and was known as “antivirus.” These days, many tools continuously use the same name even though they do far more than protecting you from viruses.

Malware vs Virus – Side by Side Difference to Know the Difference

Let’s go through a side-by-side comparison and understand the difference between malware and a virus:

Abbreviation OfMalware is an abbreviation of Malicious Software.Virus is an acronym of Vital Information Resources Under Seize.
DefinitionMalware is designed to disrupt, gain unauthorized access to or damage a website/computer.Virus is a type of malware designed to load on a user’s system without performing malicious activities. Further, it’s self-replicating and inserts itself into other files while infecting them during the process.
TypesThere are different types of malware such as spyware, worms, Ransomware, Trojan horses, and a virus is among them.There are two different types of viruses – resident virus and non-resident virus.
ProtectionFor malware-infected websites, tools like CodeGuard Backup help create a secure backup, detect & remove malware, website scanning, and more.Viruses are found on computers & other devices, and for that, antivirus is available.

Different Types of Malware

Though cybersecurity is advancing, the online world’s criminals aren’t far behind either – and they’re getting aggressive. Some of the commonly seen malware you should be aware of includes:

1. Worms

A worm is a type of malware that self-replicates and spreads over your network quickly. Different from a virus, a worm spreads due to vulnerability exploitation within the infected system or through received email attachments masked as a legit file.

These worms enter your network and spread throughout your files, and sometimes it even destroys it. However, security products effectively tackle this issue. Though, vulnerability still hangs around if patches and updates are not made.

2. Adware

Adware, also known as Advertising spam, is designed to shower your site visitors with ads for generating ad revenues. Adware pushes unwanted and unreasonable advertisements, and that’s usually targeted to your interest by using stolen information through spyware components.

3. Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware installed on a user’s device or network without permission that steals critical data such as credit card details, bank details, and passwords. Also, there are different spyware types such as adware and system monitors that detect whatever users are doing on their device.

4. Scareware

It tells your computer is malware-infected while prompting you to click and download the solution that usually contains malware itself, and sometimes it’ll dupe you into buying useless software.

5. Ransomware

Among various types of malware, Ransomware is the most notorious one. It’s known for locking your website and preventing users from accessing it. Further, hackers leave a message to the site owner demanding ransom, mostly through bitcoins or any other type of cryptocurrency within a specific time length. Otherwise, it erases all your data.

6. Fileless Malware

Compared to traditional malware, fileless malware doesn’t download any code on the user’s computer. Due to this, there’s no specific malware signature for virus scanners to detect it – through advanced scanners such as Sectigo Web Security Platform come with advanced technology capable of detecting such malware.

7. Rootkit

Among all, Rootkit is the hardest to discover and remove malware. As the name implies, Rootkit is a set of kits that get deployed deep within your computer to perform various illegal activities that include stealing sensitive information from the user, sending spam emails, or taking part in DDoS attacks.

8. Trojans

Trojans are another type of malware that doesn’t replicate on its own. Instead, it appears as legit software and tricks its users into believing it’s safe to use. But, once it breaches your website or device, it’ll install or download other malware that’ll start damaging your site or device.

9. Keyloggers

Different from other types of malware, keyloggers aren’t a threat to the system they infect. But keylogger is a software used for tracking every single keystroke of the users on your site without making anyone aware of it. For instance, cybercrooks use keyloggers to access customers’ passwords, credit card or bank details, login credentials, or other important information. Once they gain access to financial accounts, they steal identities or sell users’ data to third parties.

10. Botnets & Bots

The botnet is a network of infected devices without malware that is further used by cyber crooks to perform different types of cybercrimes, such as deploying malware attacks on targeted websites.

On the other hand, the bot is a program that launches assigned tasks over a network. Though many of those tasks are harmless, some chances even include malicious bots that can steal critical user information or launch a cyberattack.

Malware vs Virus – How to Know by Which Malware My Site Is Infected With

Most malware can prevent itself from getting detected, though others, such as Ransomware, strictly depend upon making their presence known. For instance, if your site gets infected by Ransomware, you won’t be able to access it. In return, it’ll also display a message asking for ransom from the site owner within a specific time period, like 48 to 72 hours, or else they’ll delete your data. On the other hand, some malware, like spyware, tries to keep a low profile as their purpose is to gather site user’s information without being caught.

However, sophisticated website security products like Website Security Platform offered by the globally known certificate authority (CA) can detect even advanced malware with a few clicks by you and help fix hacked websites while preventing future attacks as well.

What Makes Your Website Vulnerable to Malware?

Usually, website owners regularly improve their website to give a smooth customer experience and increase website popularity. Social networking, location-awareness, user customization, and user interactivity are some of the key improvements. However, advances like these equally increase the risk associated with your site’s chances of getting infected with malware.

Pitfalls that increase the chances of your site being exploited and infected with the malware include:

  • Not updating and patching your site’s theme, plugins, and servers.
  • Issues pertaining to actual codes of your website.
  • New vulnerabilities are introduced due to new trends like social networking, mobile, and cloud that go unnoticed.
  • Using website features like comment fields, social network site integrations, and public file uploads that introduce exploits and open doors to malware.
  • Improper input validation on user input fields.
  • Insufficient logging mechanisms.
  • Not closing a database connection.
  • Not handling errors accurately.
  • Queries regarding LDAP, XPath, SQL, and program arguments and OS commands are also open to injection vulnerabilities.

In spite of proper security strategy, it’s not easy to protect sites from malware infections, especially if your site interacts with cloud-based services or interacts with users regularly. To overcome such issues, malware detection and malware removal tools with antimalware features such as Sectigo Website Security Platform can prove essential.

How to Protect Your Site from Malware Based Threats

When looking through cybersecurity points, first and foremost, you should make your site strong enough where cybercriminals can’t break into it. Though it won’t prevent all attackers, most of those who’re looking for quick access will stop bothering.

Similarly, some other things you can do to make your site more secure against such threats and malware include:

1. Keep Themes, Plugins, and All Third-Party Extensions Updated

It’s self-explanatory. Once any update or patch gets released, you should update your installed theme, plugins, or any other extension you’re using on your site. Newly released patches and updates from the manufacturer are one type of way to remove security gaps from the old versions that can lead to some harmful cyberattacks.

2. Limit User Access

Grant access to your website according to the role. For instance, someone who posts blogs on the website doesn’t require permission to change or remove the plugin. You should give your site access based upon their workload because you’re reducing the chance of exposure and to become victim to a threat by limiting access.

3. Use Strong Passwords

Keep strong passwords. Use paraphrases and special characters such as an asterisk symbol (*), upper- & lower-case letters, and numbers.

4. Cyber Security Training

Your admin department that handles your site should be properly trained and know how to keep your site and server updated with all the required security features. If you’re a small company, then be sure you hire someone who has proper experience keeping the site secure. If not, then provide proper cybersecurity training to help them create better site security strategies.

5. SSL/TLS Certificate to Offer Secure HTTPS Connection

These days, having an SSL/TLS certificate is essential. Otherwise, the web browser starts showing a “Not Secure” error. Sometimes, your site even fails to load on popular browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Further, SSL/TLS certificate offered by a respected certificate authority (CA) such as Sectigo comes with a site seal that gives a visible clue that your site is safe and secure to visit.

6. Vulnerability Assessments & Penetration Testing

Both tactics, vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, are the best way to find vulnerabilities that may exist in your site and how cyber crooks can take advantage of them. It helps you find out and secure unnoticed vulnerabilities so that you can patch them before someone exploits them.

Wrapping Up

Malware is a single attack technique that isn’t common nowadays, but still, it’s widely used in combination with other technologies and tactics. Many times, people get malware confused with a virus, but in reality, a virus is just one type of malware.

We’ve discussed important points to note. For instance, how to know if any malware infects your site, how you can figure out whether your site is vulnerable to any malware attacks, and most importantly, how you can prevent your site from cybercrimes that are using malware.