By Parker Hansen

There’s a lot of money to be had in technology, and hackers and developers of malware know this all too well. Unfortunately, the revenue means that malware attacks won’t stop any time soon, especially when it’s so easy to infect a computer.

Malware attacks typically start when an infected file downloads itself to the computer from a website or when an email attachment is infected. The creators of viruses and other malicious software use the code of a website to start a download that the visitor may not even be aware of. In the modern age, even web-based email clients have anti-virus scanners that look into attachments and determine if they’re malicious, so email users have become savvy about email threats.

However, malicious software still looks for vulnerabilities in a network and system. This may happen when there are no firewalls set up or no anti-virus programs installed. TopTenReviews has a great comparison of the best anti-virus products that are currently on the market. Malware is designed to look for outdated security programs and settings too. This is why it’s important to install program and operating system updates as soon as they become available. Vulnerabilities give malware an easy entrance, and no one should log online without protecting their data.

After infecting a computer, malware wants to remain on the computer and infect other systems. A common tactic of malware is to hijack the browser, which can be done surreptitiously to prevent the user from discovering the attack. In a more obvious attempt at self-preservation, malware may redirect searches from anti-malware or security sites, making it more difficult for users to remove the infection. Often, users will be redirected to other “security” websites, which encourage them to shell over money for a program that can fix the problem. However, that security software may only further the problem or the software and the malware may be from the same developer.

In some cases, malware is a way for hackers to get personal information including credit card or Social Security numbers from users, so the infected computer may send this data back to the creator. In a blatant attempt for money, malware may simply ask for a cash payment to remove “warnings” from the infected computer. Those who aren’t tech-savvy may struggle with removal because malicious software frequently disables any existing security software, so they feel obligated to pay or use those solutions.

Parker Hansen is a computer security expert and writer for In his free time he enjoys blogging and web design. @TopTenREVIEWS