Computer Infection Terminology 101

What’s the difference between a worm and a bug?

No, we’re not trying to tell a joke.

There are numerous ways to define a computer infection: virus, worm, spyware, adware, malware, bug. But what do they mean? We have all heard these terms, and probably have experienced the frustration that comes with them at some point. Let’s take a quick look, word by word.

A virus is a small computer program that is designed to damage your computer. Once a virus is installed on your computer, it can erase files (such as photos, music files, etc.), open other programs without being prompted and perform other wacky actions. Viruses replicate and spread by embedding themselves into email attachments and other shared files.

Spyware is designed to “spy” or record various activities that you perform on your computer. This could mean recording anything from simple internet searches to what software programs you’re using and how you’re using them. Talk about an invasion of privacy! Unlike viruses, spyware isn’t really designed to harm your computer.

Adware is any software program that is available for a free download that includes advertisements. Companies would (and maybe still do) use this free software to secretly record the user’s actions (a lot like spyware).

Malware (Malicious Software)
Malware is a general term for any unwanted software that infects your computer.

A bug is a common term to describe a failure or a flaw in your software or hardware programming that causes a malfunction. For example, when you’re typing in a word document and you tell the program to save and it actually prints, that would be a bug.

Computer worms are similar to computer viruses but they don’t require you to launch the infected program. A worm is able to enter your computer through various ways. This is different from a virus because it automatically replicates. Generally, a virus requires user action (unintentionally) to spread.


Born and raised on a horse farm in Marion, IA, Kenyon got her B.A. in English Literature from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. She returned to the area after graduating in 2011, and interned at several different marketing agencies prior to coming on as Marketing Coordinator for Tektivity. In her free time, Kenyon enjoys riding horses, studying ballet, and being with family.

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


7 − five =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>