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What is a worm? Understand malware that multiplies itself | Security

The worm is a type of malware that is more dangerous than a common virus because it spreads rapidly and occurs without victim control. As soon as it contaminates a computer, the malicious program creates copies of itself in different locations on the system and spreads to other machines, whether through the Internet, messages, local connections, USB devices or files. The purpose of the scam, in general, is to steal data from the user or companies.

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The worm offers more risks than the virus because its program is autonomous, so it does not need to interact with the user to activate itself on the PC and multiply to other machines through the network. The virus is limited to remaining inactive in the system until it is accidentally executed by the user – only then is it capable of effectively infecting the computer.

Worm is a cyber scam capable of distributing itself over the network Photo: Divulgao / IntSightsWorm is a cyber scam capable of distributing itself over the network Photo: Divulgao / IntSights

Worm is a cyber scam capable of distributing itself over the network Photo: Divulgao / IntSights

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It is estimated that the first worm was developed in 1988 at Cornell University in the United States. Student Robert Morris distributed a program on the Internet that could replicate itself, in order to find out how many computers were connected to the network. However, the software had a bug that crashed all the machines on which it was installed.

Worms infect computers through loopholes that already exist in the system. They can be transmitted in the background as a corrupted file when accessing a suspicious page. This file can pass for a program installer that, when executed, opens a door on the system to install malicious software on the PC. From there, the worm can spread by sending messages containing contaminated attachments or links to all contacts in the email registered on the computer.

Worms are able to install malicious software on the PC without user authorization. Photo: Divulgao / AVGWorms are able to install malicious software on the PC without user authorization. Photo: Divulgao / AVG

Worms are able to install malicious software on the PC without user authorization. Photo: Divulgao / AVG

Some types of worms are sophisticated enough to close all security holes in the system to prevent other types of malware from infiltrating. All of this occurs to have exclusivity in the theft of contacts and data. However, there are also worms that don't just steal information.

They can be used to attack the computer or network security system and leave the doors open for more dangerous viruses and malware. While the worm is not neutralized, it multiplies and can reach the network of large companies. For this reason, the theft of personal data can also occur due to attacks on sites that store sensitive user data.

Worms can breach systems to steal data and spread dangerous malware Photo: Creative Commons / Flickr / elhombredenegroWorms can breach systems to steal data and spread dangerous malware Photo: Creative Commons / Flickr / elhombredenegro

Worms can breach systems to steal data and spread dangerous malware Photo: Creative Commons / Flickr / elhombredenegro

Worms are installed on computers and networks from suspicious links and emails with attachments that should never be downloaded or opened. The great difficulty in recognizing the danger is that often messages are signed by known contacts. Therefore, when in doubt, do not click on anything you consider suspicious, let alone download files whose origin generates doubts.

Keep antivirus programs up to date to protect your machine from scams. If you want to open any file that is on a flash drive, it is always important to scan the device with the antivirus first to verify that there is no contamination.

If you suspect the computer is already infected with a worm, check the space on the machine's hard drive. As its main function is to replicate, the main indication of infection is the decrease of free space on the disk. It is also advisable to monitor the performance of the PC, as the worm can make it difficult to run programs and affect the speed of the machine.

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