Q. Kim, I saw your download on Spybot Search and Destroy and it says it deals with spyware. How is that different than a virus? Also, I saw the phrase "backdoor" recently that has something to do with viruses. What is it?
-Floyd, from Grand Rapids, MI, listens to my national radio show on WKZO 590 AM and 96.5 FM.
A. I'm glad you asked, Floyd. There are quite a few terms for computer security threats and they aren't always clear cut.
Most people, including me at times, use "virus" as a general term for malicious software. However, the actual term for malicious software is "malware."
Malware comes in dozens of different styles, Floyd. There's everything from Trojans to spyware to rootkits. The amount of different ways a hacker can attack you would make your head spin. And you can't defend against all of them the same way.
Let's start with some security terms that keep popping up in the news.
Drive-by download - When malware takes advantage of security flaws in your programs to download to your computer without your permission. All you have to do is visit a website that hosts the malware and your computer is infected.
Zero-day exploit - A serious security flaw that exists in a piece of software before it's released. If hackers can find and use it before the developer releases a patch, they can do serious damage.