Malware is an abbreviated term meaning “malicious software.” This is software that is specifically designed to gain access or damage a computer without the knowledge of the owner. There are various types of malware including spyware, keyloggers, true viruses, worms, or any type of malicious code that infiltrates a computer.
Generally, software is considered malware based on the intent of the creator rather than its actual features. Malware creation is on the rise due to the sheer volume of new types created daily and the lure of money that can be made through organized Internet crime. Malware was originally created as experiments and pranks, but eventually led to vandalism and destruction of targeted machines. Today, much of malware is created for profit through forced advertising (adware), stealing sensitive information (spyware), spreading email spam or child pornography (zombie computers), or to extort money (ransomware).
Various factors can make computers more vulnerable to malware attacks, including defects in the operating system design, having all of the computers on a network run the same OS, giving users to much permissions or just using the Windows OS (due to its popularity, it gets the most malware written for it).
The best protection from malware continues to be the usual advice: be careful about what email attachments you open, be cautious when surfing and stay away from suspicious websites, and install and maintain an updated, quality antivirus program.