Malware Goes (Really) Mainstream

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-07-08 Print this article Print

Well, as if having a security threat research site modeled in direct imitation of Grand Theft Auto (over 6 million copies sold in a week) weren't reinforcement enough that malware has gone ultra-mainstream, now malware has truly entered into the general lexicon.

Quite literally, that is.

Dictionary standard-bearer Merriam-Webster announced July 7 that "malware" is among the 100-plus new terms that the company has added to next year's version of its big book.

Along with other tech faves, including "webinar" and "fanboy" for all you Apple zealots, the dictionary specialist organization has finally accepted the scourge of the computing world among its officially recognized terms.

(Another tech-relevant addition is "pretexting" -- just ask some of my old colleagues at CNET about that one, or some (former) HP execs.)

Cited as originating circa 1990 and defined specifically as the combination of "Malicious + Software," the entry is officially described as "software designed to interfere with a computer's normal functioning." I will resist the obvious joke about a certain company's operating system software.

However, I must say that does seem to be more of a fitting definition for the increasingly popular "badware," which is deliberately more inclusive of adware, whereas malware's wording does seem to want more of a truly nasty lilt to it. (Leave it to the Harvard types to truly keep breaking new literary ground.)

Like: "software designed to attack a computer's normal functioning for the purpose of damaging a system or carrying out some form of cyber-crime." Funny that neither cyber-crime nor cyber-criminal are in there, since they are almost as widely used as malware these days.

Interestingly, the more specific "spyware" beat its more general brethren in there.

Some other security terms that aren't there but deserve to be are adware, badware, botnet and rootkit, but one would imagine they will be there some day, 'cause they're not going anywhere anytime soon.

Of course, "spam" (small "s," as in the kind with no swine) is already there. Spam is everywhere, after all (just hopefully not on your dinner plate ... err, OK, I'll admit that I like it ... a lot).

And it goes without saying that "blog," "blogger" and "blogging" have already made the cut.

Blog is defined specifically as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks provided by the writer; also : the contents of such a site."

Maybe they should add the bit to that one about all the hopeless badware fanboys loading malware-inducing botnet-driven spam into the comments section of every blog in the universe.

Anyone need some Viagra?

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWEEK and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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