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Exploits are a particular kind of malware. They contain data or an executable code which make use of one or more security flaws in the software running on a PC.
Web browsers, Flash, Java, and Microsoft Office are among the most frequently attacked ones. As they can be found everywhere, security experts and hackers actively search for security flaws.
The developers have to publish regular patches to eliminate security flaws. Such patches should be installed immediately upon publishing; however, this is not always done because you have to close e.g. all browser tabs or open files to update the device. Another issue are exploits for security flaws so far unknown which hackers find and use. These are so-called Zero-Day-Exploits. It can take a while until manufacturers get to know about the problem and solve this.