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A worm is a type of malicious software (malware) that self-replicates and spreads across computer networks without the need for user interaction. Unlike viruses, worms do not require a host file or program to attach themselves to. Instead, they exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems or network protocols to propagate and infect other machines.

Here are some key characteristics of worms:

  1. Self-Replication: Worms have the ability to create copies of themselves without user intervention. They can scan for vulnerable computers or devices connected to a network and automatically infect them, often by exploiting security vulnerabilities.
  2. Network-Based Spread: Worms typically spread over computer networks, including local area networks (LANs) and the internet. They use various methods such as scanning IP addresses, exploiting software vulnerabilities, or leveraging social engineering techniques to gain unauthorized access to other systems.
  3. Propagation: Once a worm infects a system, it seeks out other vulnerable systems to infect. It can use various methods like email, instant messaging, network shares, or remote execution to propagate and spread across multiple devices or networks.
  4. Payload: Worms can carry a malicious payload, which can include various harmful activities such as data theft, system disruption, unauthorized access, or the installation of additional malware. The specific actions performed by a worm’s payload depend on the intentions of the attacker or the design of the worm itself.
  5. Autonomous Operation: Worms operate autonomously, without the need for human interaction. They can run in the background, hidden from the user, and continue to propagate and infect systems without direct intervention.
  6. Impact: Worms can have significant negative impacts on infected systems and networks. They can consume network bandwidth, overload servers, disrupt services, compromise sensitive information, or cause system crashes and instability.

Protecting against worms involves implementing robust security measures such as keeping systems and software up to date with the latest patches, using firewalls and intrusion detection systems, deploying effective antivirus software, practicing safe browsing habits, and regularly backing up important data.

It’s worth noting that while worms are often associated with malicious activities, there are also harmless or beneficial worms designed for legitimate purposes such as network monitoring, system administration, or research. These are typically referred to as “white worms” and are created by security professionals or researchers for specific purposes.

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