The malware putting Internet-connected computers at risk can be broadly divided into three main categories, namely adware, spyware and viruses.

Adware

Typically consisting of software applications that display ads to users while they are on their browser, some adware contains code that provides the advertiser with extensive access to the user's private information.

Spyware

Once installed, this type of malware essentially spies what is being done on a computer. This may include, among other things, logging keystrokes in order to discover users' passwords, log-in codes, and so on.

Viruses

Often used as an umbrella term for true viruses, worms and Trojan Horses, viruses are the type of malware that alters computer functions/ causes damage and self-replicates.

True Viruses - These viruses require a host programme to work properly. One well known example of a true virus is Melissa (March 1999), which used a Word document and resulted in E-mail systems being clogged with e-mails propagated from the virus. Originally not designed to cause harm, Melissa caused problems by overloading servers.

Worms - Self-replicating worms are stand-alone programmes that will send themselves throughout computer networks and can do all sorts of damage. The ILOVEYOU worm in 2000, for instance, spread rapidly around the world and is estimated to have cause around $10 billion worth of damage. (see more)

Trojan Horses - These are in essence programmes that say they will do one thing, but then do something else. Some damage the hard drive of victims, while others create back-doors through which remote users can access the victim's system.

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