Home Malware What is a computer worm? How this self-spreading malware wreaks havoc

What is a computer worm? How this self-spreading malware wreaks havoc

by ethhack

Worm definition

A worm is a form of malware (malicious software) that operates as a self-contained application and can transfer and copy itself from computer to computer.

It’s this ability to operate autonomously, without the need for a host file or to hijack code on the host computer, that distinguishes worms from other forms of malware.

As TechTarget puts it, “worms often use parts of an operating system that are automatic and invisible to the user,” which can make them both very difficult to detect and particularly dangerous. They generally target pre-existing vulnerabilities in the operating system of the computers they attempt to infect. Many of the most widespread and destructive forms of malware have been worms.

Is a worm a virus?

Worm vs. virus — You’ll often see word virus used in a generic sense to refer to any kind of malware, but that’s strictly speaking not correct. A computer virus, like its biological counterpart, cannot reproduce or spread on its own accord; instead, it injects its malicious code into existing applications and uses their functionality in order to carry out its mission.

The name worm is meant to indicate that a computer worm is a step up on the ladder of life from a virus. Like a real-life worm, it may be a particularly small and gross life form in its ecosystem, but it contains within itself all the functionality it needs make copies of itself and move around the environment.

Worm vs. Trojan — A worm is also different from a Trojan, a third form of malware, which needs to trick users into launching an application in order to operate; once a worm has installed itself on your computer, it doesn’t need your help to do what it plans to do.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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