Ransomware vs. Malware What’s the Difference?

Ransomware vs. Malware – What’s the Difference?

What is malware? Malware is any malicious software designed specifically to infect and harm the user’s system. A malware attack typically begins by a user:

  • Clicking on an infected pop-up advertisement;
  • Opening an email attachment from an untrusted source; or
  • Unknowingly visiting an infected website.

The malware is then downloaded and installed on the user’s computer without their knowledge. Antivirus software is your best line of defense against malware. If you encounter an on-screen alert, DO NOT click on any of the links or call any of the phone numbers provided on the screen. (See our tech tip on 4 Ways to Escape a Malware Trap!)

What is ransomware? Ransomware is an advanced type of malware that infects your computer, gains control of your files and restricts your access until you pay a ransom to have your files restored. See our Tech Tip: 5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Ransomware.

Once infected, victims will typically receive an on-screen or pop-up alert stating that their system has been locked or that files have been encrypted. The alert may even claim to be from a trustworthy source. Victims are told that unless a ransom is paid, access will not be restored and/or their files will be deleted. The alert typically provides a phone number or a link to continue on to pay the ransom. Again, if you encounter an on-screen alert, DO NOT click on any of the links or call any of the phone numbers provided on the screen. 

What is a virus? A virus is a common form of malware where a malicious piece of code infects a program or file in the user’s system. Viruses are designed to spread from computer to computer. Once attached to a file or program, the virus will remain inactive until the user runs the infected program, causing the virus code to be executed. A virus can corrupt or destroy data and infect other computers on the same network.

💡 RELATED TECH TIP: 4 Tips to Escape a Malware Trap