Best Cell Phone Spy Apps
Malware vs Spyware: What’s The Difference? Malware vs Spyware: What’s The Difference?

Malware vs Spyware: What’s The Difference?

Useful Information Pat Stanley

Many keep asking - malware vs spyware: what’s the difference? This is because both are typically interchanged and... Malware vs Spyware: What’s The Difference?

Many keep asking – malware vs spyware: what’s the difference? This is because both are typically interchanged and many do not know how to tell them apart. 

Some people do not know the difference between malware, viruses, and spyware. They refer to these things as internet viruses as a whole. 

Despite not being able to know the different PC viruses, it’s important to understand that these are dangerous and are a constant threat. As a computer user, you need to know about malware spyware protection to keep your device(s) safe. The good news is, there are now so many different security programs you can install on your device to protect against these malicious threats. With this, you can continue to utilize your device without worrying about these constant threats. 

Affiliate Campaign

What is Malware?

First things first– let’s talk about the meaning of malware and why you need to avoid it at all costs. 

Malware is a general term for the different types of malicious software intended to exploit or harm a device, service, or network. It is often utilized by cybercriminals to extract data they can leverage over their victims in exchange for a certain amount of money. This can be healthcare records, personal emails, passwords, financial data, personal photos/videos, and more.

The malicious code spreads through various ways. They can either be included as an email attachment, phishing email, phishing text message, fake software installation, or on an infected USB drive.  

The Types of Malware

There are plenty of different types of malware in existence including malware, viruses, spyware, and trojans. Knowing the name of computer viruses can help give your device the protection it needs:

  • Adware

Although this isn’t similar to the dangerous viruses on this list, Adware can be annoying. This type of malware pushes unsolicited advertisements that typically pop up or blink on your screen. If you’re not careful, the link can contain other types of malware. 

  • Fileless Malware

This is another type of malicious software that makes use of a legitimate program to infect a device. Unlike other types of threatware, these registry attacks leave no malware files to scan. They also are undetectable, which is why it is often a challenge to find and remove them. 

  • Ransomware

This is one of the most profitable and popular malware types among cybercriminals. It installs itself onto the machine of the victim, encrypts the files, and turns around to demand a ransom so the file can be returned to the user. The ransom is typically held in Bitcoin.

  • Scareware

Another type of malware that can be encountered is a fake application cybercriminals sell. They do this to make their victims think their device is infected. 

  • Spyware

What is a spyware virus? It is a program that gets installed on a computer without the knowledge of a user. It then captures and transmits various personal information or internet browsing habits to the attacker. The program is used to monitor communications on the target device. 

An example of spyware is the one commonly used by government agencies, law enforcement officials, and information security organizations to gain evidence in an investigation. But there are commercial phone & computer spyware that consumers can use to spy on an employee, spouse, or child.

  • Trojan

Just like in Greek mythology, a Trojan malware disguises itself as a harmless program so it can be downloaded and used. Once it’s on the computer, it starts stealing the user’s data, spies on or crashes the device. 

  • Virus

Many think malware and viruses are the same things. But the truth is, a virus is a type of malware typically attached to an email. Malware vs virus files include a payload that acts like attacking the recipient’s device. Once the file gets opened, the device gets infected. 

  • Worms

Another malicious program to be aware of is worms. These can replicate from machine to machine. Unlike a virus, it does not require user interaction to operate. 

How To Protect Against Spyware


What is Spyware?

What is spyware in a computer? This threatware definition is a type of malware that gets installed on a computer without the user’s knowledge. Once installed, it can steal sensitive and internet usage data and sell these to advertisers, external users, or data firms. 

So, what is spyware? In a nutshell, the malware attacks definition of spyware is any software program downloaded without the authorization of the user. And even if it is installed with permission, it can still violate the privacy of the user and be abused. 

Here are some of the things that spyware can do:

    • Track internet activity.
    • Track login credentials.
    • Gain credit card/bank information and passwords.
    • Track physical location.
    • Intercept emails and texts.
    • Record conversations.
    • Access personal data .


Signs of Installed Spyware or Malware

So how do you know if your device is affected by spyware or malware? Here are the common signs to look out for:

  • Slow computer speed

Like any other software or program, malware is created with multi-layered and/or complex codes. The overall file data is typically heavy, taking up a lot of storage space. Plus, the algorithms utilized typically require a fast and stable network connection to function properly and continuously. 

Hence, if your device responds way slower than usual, it’s likely infected with malware or spyware. Such software is designed to continuously run in the background, meaning, it’s eating up your phone’s resources as well – from storage space to data to battery. And since the infected software utilizes most of the resources, the rest of your apps and tools would have to share with whatever’s remaining, compromising performance and speed. 

  • Browser redirects

Certain malicious programs are designed to create redirecting routes, leading you to an infected or compromised page, for easier exploitation. These are lighter versions – in terms of size and type – as these are meant to lead you to the actual venue or platform where the predator intends to execute their malicious acts. These are typically embedded only into pop-up messages, alerts, notifications, buttons, or links.

Being rerouted to a different page is normal especially if the site you’re accessing has, by design, multiple built-in pages or affiliate links. If you’re constantly redirected, however, treat that as a red flag. And just to be sure, make it a habit to check the URL of each page you’re redirected to.

  • Problems in shutting down or starting your computer

When shutting down computers, the running applications or tools must be closed first. The more sessions need to be ended, the longer the process is. The same goes with starting up the device. If there are any programs set to automatically get activated as soon as the computer is turned on, the device would take time to be available for use until such programs are fully set up.

Personal computers, especially desktops, could take quite some time to start. However, if it’s taking way longer than usual, the presence of malicious software is possible.

  • Frequent pop-up ads

Advertisement software, also known as adware, is a form of malware that utilizes ads to mask the program’s malicious intentions. These could appear in various forms, but the most common ones are pop-up ads.

Most sites, especially open-source browsers or free web pages, generate income through advertisements. Wikipedia, for instance, provides informative content and reference articles for free. When accessing the page though, you could see random ads from different affiliate markets. Such circumstances are normal. However, if such ads pop up too frequently, especially those that imply excessive urgency, take it as a warning for possible compromise.

  • Infection warnings

At some point while using your computer, alerts or notifications about certain system or software infections automatically pop up if you have installed antivirus software on your device.

Be mindful, however, of notifications not from your trusted or personally installed anti-malware. For instance, there’s another form of malware, the so-called ransom software (ransomware) that utilizes warning messages to catch your attention and eventually lure you into letting them into your computer. 


How Dangerous are Malware and Spyware?

Be careful of opening and receiving files from people you don’t know as these could include reverse spyware programs and other threats. And though the damage has not completely been done yet, the effects could be irreversible as soon as your device gets infected. Hence, it’s important to, as much as possible, take precautionary measures and prevent such malicious software from penetrating your device. 

Here are some consequences and dangers brought by malware and spyware.

  • Device Compromise

Once malware manages to penetrate your computer, it typically triggers a domino of damages to your device’s other sections – from drives to settings to tools. Such compromise could cause latencies and crashes, and if no proper action is taken, your computer could end up slow and unusable.

  • Data Breach

More than the device itself, you have to mind the files stored in your computer. Most spy apps are specifically designed to remotely monitor activities and extract data. While it could get annoying for a virus to corrupt your important files, it’s more dangerous if your confidential data is stolen or exploited. After all, most hackers utilize malicious software for data and/or privacy breaches.

  • User Exploitation

Above all, what seems to be basic software is capable of putting you – the device user – in danger. If malware is utilized for social engineering, per se, you might end up falling victim to fraud or some sort of a money-involved scam. Malware could also be the root cause of identity theft, cyberbullying, stalking, or even physical harm like mugging, rape, and murder.


How To Protect Your Computer Against Malware

As a computer user, you need to have a malware tracker installed. Even though there are plenty of different malware types available, you can still protect yourself by doing these things:

    • Install an anti-spyware or anti-malware program. 
    • Update OS and applications regularly.
    • Don’t click on a popup. 
    • Install the apps you need.
    • Don’t let someone else use your device.
    • Don’t click on unknown links. 
    • Beware of emails requesting personal information. 
    • Stick to official app stores. 


How To Protect Computer Against Spyware

Difference Between Malware and Virus and Spyware

If you want tips on how to protect against spyware, follow the same suggestions as above. But to add protection against spyware, do the following:

    • Use trusted anti-spyware and antivirus software programs only.
    • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA).

These are the best ways to protect yourself and your device from harmful attacks. 

Pat Stanley

Cell phone spy software enthusiast and researcher. With over 8 years in the business I can offer the most comprehensive analysis and recommendations for virtually any program on the market. Learn more about Pat Stanley.