Computer viruses, malware, Trojans, and other malicious strings of code infect millions of computers every year. They cripple large networks of commercial machines as well as personal laptops and desktops found in homes throughout the world. Understanding the rate of infection can help computer users of all stripes protect themselves.
How Prevalent is Malware?
According to recent malware statistics provided by TopTenReviews, 32 percent of all computers are infected with some type of malware. In the United States, that number drops only two points to 30 percent. In some countries, such as China and South Korea, the infection rate rises to nearly 60 percent, while only 20 percent of computers in Sweden have suffered infections.
The types of malware vary widely, though viruses represent the most common form, or 57 percent, of malware. A replicating file that spreads through a computer system, a virus can cause serious damage.
Other types of malware with high infection rates include Trojans, adware, and exploits. While the first two are fairly well known, exploits remain more elusive. They define a range of malware programs that exploit weaknesses in a computer system.
How Does Malware Impact Consumers?
In some cases, malware constitutes nothing more malicious than an inconvenience. It might require consumers to wipe their hard drives, uninstall unwanted software, or run lengthy antivirus scans.
However, malware also introduces far more tangible damage on some systems. For example, in the United States, 1 million households have lost money because of malware infections or misused accounts. In the course of a year, malware costs U.S. consumers an estimated $4.55 billion.
Are Viruses and Malware Still a Problem?
Over time, antivirus software programs and other efforts render some malware programs incapable of inflicting serious damage to computers. However, this doesn’t end the threat.
Last year, 27 million malware strains emerged on the Internet and in various programs. The most prolific computer worm, known as Conficker, managed to infect millions of machines in hundreds of countries. The malware menace continues to threaten home computers as well as corporate and government networks.
How Is Spyware Dangerous?
Spyware accounts for less than 1 percent of malware infections, but it represents one of the most insidious types of malware. It collects personal data, such as social security and credit card numbers, often for the purposes of identity theft.
Backdoor malware is also dangerous for personal data. It allows a third party to take control of a machine from a remote location. This can help identity thieves gain access to private information, including bank records.
How Can Computer Users Protect Themselves?
Home computer users can protect themselves from malware by taking a proactive approach to prevention. The most important steps include:
- Safe Browsing: Never click on a link unless you trust the source.
- Cautious Email Use: Avoid opening emails if you don’t recognize the sender.
- Antivirus Protection: Install a reputable antivirus program on your computer.
- Pop-up Avoidance: Don’t input personal data in a pop-up window.
Malware remains a significant threat to all computer users. Prevention is important for everyone who accesses the Internet or installs software on their machines.
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