At any given moment, a formidable legion of threats is attempting to compromise your computer—so many that it can be difficult to keep the nuances of the terminology straight. Mastering the lingo is a helpful first step in ensuring your computer is proof against the latest threats. The infographic above should prove to be a helpful guide for those new to (or simply a little uncertain about) the precise definitions of some of the more common—and necessary—terms.
Viruses and malware, for instance, are often conflated, but “viruses” properly refer to a specific type of malware. When computers were beginning to enter into the average person's experience and possession, viruses were, however, by far the most prominent and feared threat, and so the popular consciousness still tends to focus on viruses when discussing threats to their computers or their information, despite the fact that the term “malware” (short for “malicious software”) or the variant “badware” has since been introduced to denote any vehicle for malicious or undesired code. In fact, worms (which can independently forward viruses from a single computer countless times) and Trojans (which infiltrate computers and execute unauthorized commands) now tend to outnumber viruses.
To maintain full computer protection, however, a user must go far beyond virus protection. There are many other types of malware that can doom your computer or breach your privacy. Sometimes, this can occur entirely without your knowledge: while users tend to expect dramatic repercussions such as the total incapacitation of their computer, the warning signs for malware's presence can be as subtle as a slight decrease in speed or performance. You—and any computer protection software you opt to purchase—will need to be on guard against Trojan horses, rootkits, worms, phishing, adware, and malware attached to spam, among other iterations.
There are, of course, a range of common sense steps you can take to minimize your risk of infection.
Ensure your computer is set to automatically update, as these updates often include correctives to newly detected threats. Screen emails to guarantee their legitimacy before you open them, and be especially vigilant about downloading any suspicious file attachments. Free WiFi is obviously tempting, but restricting yourself to secure connections is an essential component of computer protection. In addition to installing antivirus software (and keeping it scrupulously updated), utilize a firewall and a pop-up blocker on your browser; some antivirus software packages may include these features
In conclusion, with so many risks circulating around the jungle of cyberspace, antivirus software is, it's safe to say, hardly optional, but required. Stressing that your computer is in immediate danger may seem alarmist, but it merely reflects the unfortunate reality of navigating cyberspace, and the urgency of doing so safely.