Website Security July 30, 2021

Malware vs Virus: What’s the Difference?

8 min read

Even though the terms “virus”  and “malware”  seem the same, technically, both are quite different in terms of what they do.

In this article, we will look into the questions that you might have regarding both, like “Malware vs Virus” or “difference between malware and virus” and answer them.

In short, is malware the same as a virus? The short answer for this is no. The long answer is this article.

So, Let’s dive into the bigger picture to understand the terms “Malware and Virus”.

What is Malware?

What is a malware

Malware is a computed code that is designed to harm any programmable device, server or network. Malware can harm these by denial of access, destruction or theft of data, monetary theft, hijacking digital data, spreading misinformation and other harmful acts. Malware is derived from the word Malicious Software.

The main intention of planting malware into your device would be for money, spying, theft or damage to your digital properties. Malware includes malicious software of five types: viruses, worms, trojan horses, adware and spyware.

What is a Virus?

What is a virus

A Virus is a specific type of malware that self-replicates by inserting its code into other programs. Computer viruses are the most prominent and you might have heard about them one day or the other. The main goal of viruses is to spread to as many systems as possible, just like how a biological virus replicates itself in a host’s body and spreads to others.

So, viruses are like parasites. It “infects” specific lines of code of a program, replicates itself and spreads throughout the system.

These have been in existence since the beginning of the commercial internet. These basically corrupt files or edit files rendering them useless and harmful.

Differences Between Malware vs Virus

Up until here you might have had the question of “What is the difference between malware and virus?”.

The main difference that you need to know of malware vs virus is that the latter is a type of malware.

Malware is the bigger part of the problem or say, it is the main category. Viruses come under them. There’s been an increase in the number of existing and new malware in the past couple of years. Here is the McAfee Labs threat report regarding malware if you like to know more about them.

Viruses spread through infected files and programs and are distributed through infected websites, flash drives, files and emails. A virus is activated when a person opens the infected file application or file. Some advanced viruses like polymorphic viruses modify their own code to avoid detection.

The motive of both is to cause damage or utilize the resources of the host

Other Types of Malware

To get a clearer picture, we shall now quickly look into the other types of malware so that you can understand what “malware vs virus” actually means.

1. Worm

The worm is a self-replicating piece of malware that jumps from computer to computer. The worm typically performs the function of replication.

2. Adware

Advertising scams that are aimed to shower you with ads to generate ad revenue.

3. Scareware

You might have gotten messages or ads that tell you to download this or that or else your device might get affected by malware. Most of the time, these download files or the download button itself is a rigged malware.

4. Spyware

It spies on your actions to get the most out of your habits and somehow get your login information.

5. Ransomware

Ransomeware locks up your computer, folders or files and makes them inaccessible until you make payment.

Which is More Harmful? Malware vs Virus

Even though viruses come under the “malware” category, we will compare them with worms, adware, spyware and others.

Viruses are more harmful than others due to its property of changing the code and altering the folders, files and other executable files rendering them useless.

Another thing about viruses is that they can spread throughout the network and sometimes it can be hard to detect them in the first place.

Other malware is also harmful with regards to what “they” do with the login data or any other personal information.


Malware comprises viruses, trojans, ransomware, spyware and worm. Hence, viruses are a part of malware or, say, a subcategory of it. These are extremely harmful to a device, server, or network of systems.

The number of new and existing malware is increasing every year coping with the new and existing technology.

In order to encounter these problems and prevent them, install antivirus software on your device or install a firewall. Backing up files and data every once in a while, running a full scan every once in a month, can really help your data to stay safe.

So, what is the difference between malware and virus?

In short, all viruses are malware, but all malware are not viruses.

Have you ever been subjected to an attack by malware? Are you able to explain the difference between malware and virus to a person who isn’t too much into this?

What antivirus or anti-malware software are you using?

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