Worm Virus: What Is It & How Does It Work

Different types of malware can give you and your computer a really bad day. Computer worms are some of the most deadly ones. Let’s take a look at worm viruses and how they work.

Nikolina Cveticanin Image
Updated:

July 21,2022

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When you visualize a worm, you’re likely thinking of a pink-colored or reddish-brown invertebrate that you find in your garden or as bait for fishing. However, when we talk about the malware form of worms, they’re hardly helpful to the soil or angling but are very dangerous for our computers and personal data.

In this brief article, we’ll talk about the worm virus, explain how it works, and discuss how you can keep your computer free of this pesky form of malware.

What Is a Computer Worm?

Computer worms are malware programs that can make copies of themselves. A computer worm replicating itself aims to make copies that can infect other computers. While most malware is isolated to the infected device, worm viruses are designed to spread to other devices.

How do computer worms work? They target computer networks, using the link to infect device after device. The first infected computer is regarded as the host, and the worm will burrow through the gaps in the network security to get to the other computers.

Once in, a worm can cause several problems for the computer and its owner. It can infect the device with other malware, delete important files, steal data, reduce the space on your hard drive, consume bandwidth, overload networks or open a backdoor for other intrusions.

Worm viruses belong to the Trojan horse malware family. As the name implies, they are malicious programs that gain entry using deception and security breaches, just like in the old Greek myth. Device owners often run trojan programs without realizing it, as they're designed to look like legitimate software. This deception is accomplished using social engineering.

What Is the Main Difference Between a Worm and a Virus?

You may be wondering what the difference between a worm and a virus is, and in truth, they aren’t all that different. Both are malicious programs, but where a traditional virus can only do damage to one device, worm viruses will replicate themselves immediately the moment this malware worms its way into the services and systems on a device.

How Does a Computer Worm Infect Devices?

The primary characteristic of a computer worm is that it spreads and infects other computers. So how does it accomplish this feat?

Phishing

This is probably the most popular means of infection. It comes in the form of authentic-looking emails that are actually carriers of the worm malware. The worm typically hides in infected attachments and files. The emails may also contain links to websites or services laden with worm viruses.

Spear-Phishing

Spear-phishing is a lot like phishing, only it’s a more specific attack that targets specific users with the aim of infecting their devices with ransomware. After infection, select data or even the entire hard disk becomes locked by encryption, and the only way to regain access is to pay a ransom to the scammers.

Shared Networks

With this method, worms use the LAN or WAN to replicate across computers sharing the same access. This is most likely to happen in a workplace or a cafe with multiple computers.

Security Gaps

Some worm malware programs are designed to capitalize on breaches or gaps in the network or software security. The worm virus exploits vulnerabilities to gain access to a device.

File Sharing

Sharing files through peer-to-peer networks can serve as an effective method of worm malware infection, crossing from one computer to another easily.

Social Networks and Instant Messaging Platforms

Everybody loves social network platforms, and they’re great because they give us a chance to connect with friends regardless of their current location. However, they are also a breeding ground for worm infections. For example, in 2005, MySpace was the victim of a worm attack named Samy.

Worms can also be spread through instant messengers using text messages.

External Devices

Infected external devices like hard drives and USBs can easily spread the worms from system to system once plugged in.

How To Get Rid of a Worm Virus

A worm spreading can be stopped by using the appropriate antivirus or anti-malware protection. Additionally, responsible computer usage ensures that the chances of infection are kept at a minimum.

Stay away from any suspicious links, verify that emails are authentic before downloading any attachments and monitor all P2P file sharing, external devices, and websites. Keep track of your text messages as well. Finally, make sure to keep all of your software regularly updated.

Final Thoughts

Worms can cause devastating damage, not only to the first infected device but a vast network of other systems, if proper care isn’t taken. You could lose all your important data or have it encrypted, requiring you to pay a ransom. Either way, worm virus infections are nothing to joke about. 

Malware protection software is your safest bet in keeping your computer protected from worms, and as the case often is, prevention is better than cure.

FAQ
What is a computer worm?

A computer worm is a type of malware program that can make copies of itself. The aim of a computer worm replicating is to infect other computers.

How do computer worms work?

Worm viruses target computer networks, using the link to infect other devices. The first infected computer is regarded as the host, and the worm will burrow through gaps in the network security to get to the other computers.

How can I get rid of a computer worm?

You can get rid of a worm virus by using antivirus or anti-malware protection. Subsequently, you can prevent reinfection by practicing responsible computer usage. Do this by:

  • Staying away from any suspicious links online,
  • Verifying that emails are authentic before downloading any attachments,
  • Monitoring all P2P file sharing, external devices, and websites,
  • Keeping track of your text messages and emails,
  • Making sure all of your computer’s essential software is regularly updated.
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