What’s the difference between a computer virus and malware? Most personal computers come with antivirus software, but malware is a relatively broad term. Is your antivirus software also protecting you against other types of malware? Most likely, yes.

Malware is a general term for “malicious software,” which includes the viruses targeted by software like Norton, McAfee, and AVG. But what about Trojans, worms, spyware, and the rest of all that horrible stuff waiting to make your life miserable on the Internet? If you’re not full protected, the wrong bit of malware can compromise your machine or even lead to your personal information getting stolen by identity theft.

Here’s how to make sure your computer is completely protected:


Not All Malware Is a Virus, But Every Virus Is Malware

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about antivirus and anti-malware software is that viruses are malware. “Malware” is basically the general word used to describe any malicious code that’s designed to hurt your computer or steal your information. A virus is one specific type of malware, and it’s a type that’s designed to replicate itself and spread automatically.

As Lifehacker explains:

“Viruses were extremely ‘popular’ in the 1990s, which is when the term ‘Antivirus’ became common, but today viruses are in the minority when it comes to malware.”

A color photo of some children using some computers.

One of the best ways to protect against viruses is by browsing and downloading carefully when you’re online.

Other types of malware include Trojans, worms, keyloggers, adware and spyware.

The Best Option to Protect Yourself

When it comes to picking between antivirus software and anti-malware software, the choice isn’t that difficult. Just about any antivirus software will also protect you from other security threats like trojans and worms.

On the software’s box, the difference between the word “virus” and “malware” is almost always just a marketing distinction and not actually something that reflects what your software will or won’t protect you from.

Perhaps the best way to use software to protect your computer is by installing not one, but two different options.

One type of antivirus software is called an on-access program. This will actively scan your computer and monitor your activity while you’re browsing the Internet to make sure you don’t download anything malicious.

Another type of program can be used on-demand to do a more thorough scan of every file on your computer. If you’ve got some malware that your on-access scanner might have missed, this secondary tool will be sure to find it and neutralize the problem.


Browse Carefully

Otherwise, the best way to protect yourself from viruses and malware is to make sure you’re browsing the Internet safely and responsibly. Don’t visit sites that look suspicious, and don’t click links in emails from senders that you don’t recognize.

You don’t always need to shell out the extra cash for a pro software option, but might want to consider this option if you share your computer with someone who’s browsing and downloading habits aren’t quite as careful as yours are.

If you’ve got any tips, share them with us in the comments!


See Also

Facebook Hoax Alert: Fake Virus Warning Scares Microsoft Windows Users
Dangerous Facebook Trojan Virus Can Empty Your Bank Account
Fake Anti Virus Software Costs Victims $1 Billion

About The Author

Sean Boulger is a freelance writer and storytelling enthusiast living in LA. He loves television, pop culture, minimalism, and two cats.

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