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What is a Computer Worm?

by Cyberguy | Last Updated | September 2, 2021
Cyber Dictionary|CyberSecurity - Consumer

So, the first image that probably comes to mind when you hear the term worm, and in our case computer worm, is a squirmy invertebrate that you found on a sidewalk after a rainstorm or as a kid, you played in the dirt with or if you are into fishing (not phishing) you might have used them as bait. This is not the kind of worm we are talking about. Computer worms are nasty little creators created to do evil things.

Computer worms are another form of malware (malicious software) that infects our devices like viruses, trojans, and spyware. Part of their mission may be to do exactly what those other types of malware do. But there is one specific characteristic that computer worms have that the others don’t, and that is the ability to self-replicate and send copies of themselves to other devices. Many cyber experts consider worms to be a subspecies of viruses. but unlike viruses, they can travel from device to device and across networks without any human action.

So how do computer worms work?

Computer worms are designed to exploit known security holes in software. However some do spread by tricking Internet users in ways similar to othermalware – phishing and smishing are often used methods for initially spreading worms. The worms arrive in message attachments, and once you download them, the worm silently infects your machine. File sharing and other Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are another avenue for worms – bad actors upload infected files with desirable names to entice unsuspecting users into downloading them  — and once you download the file, your computer is infected.

Once a worm is on your device, it can corrupt files, steal private information, modify system settings to make your device unusable or even install backdoors. Backdoors give cybercriminals access to your device, making it even more vulnerable.

What is a Computer Worm - infection chain

How do you know if a computer worm is on your device?

As with all malware, ultimately having a quality antivirus/antimalware tool on your device is the best defense. Good tools will typically prevent you from getting worms and other malware, but the bad actors are smart, and they are always looking for weaknesses in your devices and the software that protects those devices. So, it is possible to get infected even if you have such tools on your devices.

What is a Computer Worm - virus vs worm

Paying attention to how your devices are behaving is a key strategy to recognizing the possibility you have a worm.

If you fear that your machine is infected, immediately run a security scan from your antivirus/antimalware tool to identify and remove the infection.

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