Skip to content
"VC3 has made it easier than ever before for our local government to serve our citizens by providing us with modern web tools and a team
of talented and courteous professionals.
City of Valdosta, GA

Find All the Resources You Need

Our resources & insights includes case studies, client testimonials, guides, checklists, blog articles and more!


3 min read

What's the Difference? Malware Adware Ransomware & Spyware

A virus is a virus, right? Well, not exactly. And while anything that infects, disrupts or threatens your company is bad, knowing the differences can help keep you safe.

Each one of these intruders behaves differently, and your staff will need to be educated on their delivery and infection methods so they can avoid them.

Types of Infections Defined

The root of these names comes from one of two ways: how your system is infected, or a description of what happens once your system is infected.

Malware – is the umbrella term to describe any intrusive program or anything made to maliciously infiltrate a computer or system. The word was created by combining “malicious” and “software.”

This umbrella term is used to describe Worms, Trojan Horses, Viruses, and other like-coined phrases. The next time you hear Company X was infected with the latest Trojan Horse, keep in mind that it’s a form of malware.  

Most of the time, malware latches to your computer because you accidentally allow it too. Downloading a file, opening an email attachment, or accessing a dangerous website and clicking on an ad or popup are all secret ways malware attaches itself to your system.

A regular, run-of-the-mill virus self-replicates after sinking itself into your workstation or network. Worms also self-replicate, but instead of placing itself into a program, it runs in the background of your overall system. Trojan Horses got the name because of the fable. They are disguised as a free song or gift of any kind and instead are infecting your system.

Malware in Action: What It Does Once It's in Your System

Once your computer system is infected, knowing the malware’s goal can help the cleanup process.

For instance, is it trying to replicate something or is it trying to steal information? The following terms are used to describe what the malware intends to do now that it’s in your system.  


While noted as possibly the least invasive type of malware, adware can scale between irritating up to undermining your security. In a nutshell, adware loads on to the computer through software, free or paid. The “end user license agreement” will ask your permission to include this in your download. Usually, it can be removed by uninstalling the software, but while it lives on your system, it produces popups on your screen and redirects your web pages when you are searching.


Arguably the most famous right now, ransomware is the stuff of pirate’s dreams. This malware creeps into your system and alters it so that you can’t use it. The pirate part comes in when said hackers keep your system locked until their request for monitory payments is reached.


Based on its name, if you guessed it was a “spying” “software” you’d be correct. This malware sits on your computer and looks for information like passwords, account numbers and other confidential information. Many people confuse spyware and adware, but spyware is installed without your consent and is accompanied by viruses.    

Malware is incredibly sneaky. You may have opened something or agreed to download something, and your computer appears to have done nothing. That is the biggest “gotcha” of them all. While there are no obvious symptoms, your system is, in fact, infected. You may not even know until it’s too late.                                                      

In today’s crazy hacker-driven world, any combination of these words can give you the flavor-of-the month’s malware scandal. But the common factor between any malware is that it invades your system and leaves you vulnerable. To maximize your protection efforts, work in close collaboration with your IT professional. They are your guide to the best layered protection for your company’s budget and size.

Tech Alert

Things change rapidly in the world of tech. We'll keep your business up-to-date on the latest information technology news so you can stay in the know

Related: Tech Minute: The Best Way to Stop Employees From Clicking on Phishing Scams [Case Study] 

Let's talk about how VC3 can help you AIM higher.