Q: What’s the difference between malware, viruses, and trojans?

Malware is the generic name for computer threats. A virus is a self-replicating, self-propagating, malicious piece of software designed to destroy files and folders on a computer system. These are mercifully rare these days.

A trojan is a piece of software that pretends to be legitimate and useful but installs other software (without your knowledge) to open up a ‘back door’ to your computer – this allows a hacker to access your files and, theoretically, your entire computer system. A computer infected by a trojan typically becomes part of a botnet. Trojans are the primary mechanism of malware delivery today.

Q: What’s phishing?

Phishing primarily concerns emails designed to fool you into believing they’re legitimate so that you follow links to a website and enter private information.

Such websites will typically look like a bank and prompt you to provide personal information like your username, password, credit card number etc. Legitimate emails from a bank or financial institution should never ask you to click links to their website; in fact, they’ll usually say “Go to our website and log in.”

Phishing can be very convincing, especially if you actually have an account with the company being spoofed. Don’t be fooled. Any doubts, call the company using a phone number you’ve already got and which you know is correct.