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Malware Vs Spyware Protection: What Is The Difference?

It is not uncommon to hear someone using the terms malware and spyware interchangeably. While the two are potential threats to your electronic devices and personal data, they are very different.

You can read one of the PCMatic reviews 2020 has to offer and learn how to protect your device, or read our 'How to tell if a computer is hacked?piece to be prepared for opposing them both. 

What is Malware?

So, you ask - What is malware? Malware is the shortened version of malicious software. It encompasses all types of software and programs that can be used to disrupt the normal functioning of your device, gathers sensitive information, and gains unauthorized access to secure private systems.

The most common types of malicious software like malware are viruses and worms sent to you via SMS, mail, codes, software, and, in some instances, a genuine program. In case your computer device is infected, you will require an antivirus program to detect and flash the malware out. Have you ever wondered - 'What is a worm?', or 'What is a Trojan virus?'

What is Spyware?

Spyware, true to its title, spies on the victim's browsing activities, and what is worse is that you will not even know it is there. The malicious software will gather information about you and sell it to a third party without your consent or use it in other malicious purposes. In turn, the advertisement companies will use the data to render pop-up ads to the victim.

Some companies use spyware to track their employees’ internet activities. However, spyware programs become malicious software when used to collect personal information like passwords, credit cards, and social security numbers.

That said, spyware is a type of malware, while the vice versa is not valid. Some people consider spyware less harmful and even term it as beneficial to the third party. Fortunately, it does not duplicate, unlike its malware counterpart. So, dig into this article to finally know more when asked - ''What is spyware?''

How to Protect your Computer Against Malware

Before we get into the details of malware protection,  here are some of the signs of malware infection to be on the lookout for:

  • Reduced speeds
  • Reports of you sending unusual messages
  • Strange error messages
  • Suspicious shortcut files
  • Inability to access the control panel
  • Unique icons on your desktop
  • Device suddenly crushes
  • Disables security solution

Every day, cybercriminals create about two million different malware. For that reason, we went through various types of malware earlier. The security of your computer and other devices should always be your priority. Understandably, most people do not know how to protect their computers and devices. If you wondered if such protection can be trusted, check out our 'Is McAfee safe?' post, or our back-to-back McAfee LiveSafe or Total Protection review. Consequently, we have created a detailed list of steps you could take to protect against malware. Even the ones that have been around for a while now, as explained in our 'What is a Keylogger?' post.

Install a trusted anti-malware software

A report by Digital Journal in 2017 showed that only 27% of window users did not have any form of malware protection. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the installed anti malware programs were from unreliable providers.

There are hundreds of free antivirus software downloads on the web. However, the big question is, do you want to entrust your computer's security to just anyone? So, look into our Malwarebytes free review to find out. There are some for business users as well for home computers. You might as well remain without one because some of these antiviruses come preinstalled with malware.

Therefore, ensure you invest in top-notch antivirus software. Though you may have to pay a little more, the benefits will outweigh the costs in the long run. That’s said, a good antivirus program (see AVG and Bitdefender comparison) is only useful if you keep up with the developer’s updates. Ensure your other programs are updated as well.

Perform regular scans

Having a good and up to date antivirus is not enough. Set up automatic scans every few days or weeks, depending on your internet activity. For instance, Plumbytes Anti-Malware offers quick and comprehensive scans. These scans ensure the software is running effectively upfront as it is in the background. Plus, the scans help detect any malware that may have gone undetected during the background checks.

You may run the scan on your computers while still using the machine unless the two cause your device's reduced performance. Besides, ensure your computer does not turn off, go to sleep, or hibernate during scanning.

Ensure your OS is up to date

The software providers have their operating systems, which are continually updating to address any vulnerable channels. Though it is annoying to have to update programs regularly, the newer versions are safer (see how safe is the latest AVG) and reduce your chances of being exploited. Therefore, no matter how disgruntled you may feel, kindly feel obliged to agree to an upgrade when the next notification pops up.

Only use secure networks

Wireless technology has made it easier to stay connected to our friends while being updated with current global happenings. However, if you are using public Wi-Fi without browser protection, do not have a password for your home network, or rely on WEP router encryption, you are courting trouble.

If you must connect to a public network, insist on using an encrypted VPN. At home, ensure your router is encrypted with the latest version, WAP2, with WAP3 to be released soon. Do not share your home network password, unless with close family and friends. And even then, consider creating a visitor SSID and a unique password for them.

How to Protect Computer Against Spyware

Reports show that about 90% of all home computers in the USA have been infected with spyware at some point. The numbers could be higher for smartphones. Though, in most cases, the spyware does not cause harm, it can be annoying and disastrous in case crucial personal information is leaked.

So how do you protect your computer and other devices against contracting spyware? Here are some simple, yet useful tips:

Use an Antivirus with an Anti-spyware Tool

Go for an antivirus that offers you added protection against spyware programs. A good antivirus, such as Norton or AVG, should monitor, detect, and remove spyware from your devices. Remember to continually update your antivirus to address any weaknesses that could easily be exploited.


The primary trick to protecting your device against spyware is by avoidance. There are some of the scenarios you should consider:

Avoid clicking on pop-up ads. The majority of online ads come with spyware. Therefore, avoid clicking on them, no matter how enticing the offer is. Instead, if you see an item, you might be interested in, visit the official website of that particular brand

Read a program’s reviews before download. We are all guilty of downloading apps to carry out small, simple tasks. However, research shows that spyware is commonly transmitted via installed programs. Do a thorough background check before downloading any application or program. Trusted products will come with reviews.

Avoid accidentally clicking on ads. A majority of the infected online ads will purposefully make it challenging for one to close them. Some even trick users into thinking the ‘X’ will be helpful. Instead, you end up opening the ad.

Therefore, always be vigilant when closing pop-up ads to avoid opening them accidentally. Alternatively, one could use the Alt+F4 function to close the ad.

Have a Screen lock

It only takes a few seconds for a malicious person to install spyware on your computer and  device. You can never be too trustworthy when it comes to your device. Therefore, always ensure you have a screen lock for both your phone and computer.

The screen lock should be activated within a few seconds of inactivity. This way, in case you lose track of your device for some time, the thief will not have time to bypass your password and gain access to your device.

Sometimes, even after taking all the precautionary measures, spyware finds its way into your device. The most important thing is to detect it and act as swiftly as possible quickly. Keep an eye out for the following red flags:

  • Unending pop-up ads
  • Reduced device speed
  • Your device begins to freeze or crash more times than the usual
  • An increased number of auto-directs when online
  • Security software begins to malfunction
  • Your default browser redirects you to another websites
  • A large number of advertisement pop-ups and other components appear frequently on the browser

Experiencing any of these factors may not necessarily mean a spyware infestation. However, if you notice several of these red signs, you can be almost sure you are infected. Most importantly, do not panic as the spyware can easily be removed if you act fast.

Differences in Malware and Spyware Protection

You can protect yourself from the two by taking simple security measures such as installing an antivirus (see also how to uninstall), updating your programs, using encrypted networks, passwords, and firewalls.

An antivirus program is effective when it comes to detecting and removing both malware and spyware. However, in the case of spyware, the antivirus needs to have an extra feature for spyware detection and removal (see why Kaspersky tops AVG when it comes to features). Otherwise, you will require to install a better antivirus or get a separate anti-software program. On the other hand, if you don't need a feature-packed antivirus check out our Lookout vs AVG comparison.

check your computer


There are thousands of potential threats to your computer devices, with malware and spyware being the most common. You do not have to be a tech guru to understand the risk they pose to you and your loved ones.

The best thing is that you can effectively and inexpensively protect your devices. Take simple precautions, such as installing an antivirus from a trusted source like AVG or Panda, for example. Though it is quite annoying, always ensure you update your device’s programs as soon as a new version is available. Also as a rule, higher payment package brings more wholesome protection as already seen in our top AVG antivirus packages review compared to AVG and AVG Protection plans.

Most importantly, avoid clicking on any suspicious links. Some will receive a notification, ‘you have an iPhone, click here to collect your reward,’ get excited and naively click on the link provided. Always remember the security of your computer devices is your responsibility, and it should always come first.


1. What is the difference between malware and spyware?

Malware is an umbrella term that refers to any software that is purpose-built to cause harm to your computer. Malware frequently operates undetected, and you will learn that your computer has been infected only after significant damage has been done. Spyware is a type of malware designed to monitor your computer's activities.

2. Is malware a spyware?

Yes. Spyware is a type of malware — malicious programs designed to infiltrate or damage your computer system, frequently without your knowledge. Spyware programs collect and transmit your personal information to advertisers, data firms, and other third parties.

3. What are the 4 types of malware?

There are four types of malware: viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware. Viruses are self-replicating pieces of code that attach themselves to other programs or files in order to spread. Worms are similar to viruses, but they spread automatically without user interaction. Trojans are programs that masquerade as something else in order to trick users into installing them. Spyware is software that collects information about users without their knowledge or consent.

4. What are examples of spyware?

One example of spyware is a program that surreptitiously collects data about a computer user's online behavior, including web browsing history and keystrokes, and sends that information to a third party. Other types of spyware can include programs that track a user's location or even capture webcam images. Spyware can be installed on a computer in a variety of ways, including through infected email attachments, malicious websites, or software downloads.

5. How dangerous is malware?

Although malware software cannot harm or access the computer physical hardware of systems or network equipment (with one known exception—see the section on Google Android below), it can steal, encrypt, or delete your personal data, alter or hijack core computer system functions, and spy on your computer activity without your knowledge or permission.

About Dusan Stanar

I'm the founder of VSS Monitoring. I have been both writing and working in technology in a number of roles for dozens of years and wanted to bring my experience online to make it publicly available. Visit https://www.vssmonitoring.com/about-us/ to read more about myself and the rest of the team.

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