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Drive By Malware

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Hi, it's been mentioned at passing about drive by malware you can catch from just surfing the web. I'm really good with html, so i don't really understand how drive by malware works. Where does it get installed on your computer? Does it have to do with downloading temp files or cookies? How is it structured? How big is the malware file that gets put on your computer? What's the best way to defend against it? What is the purpose of it, why would a cracker want to infect someone in this way, it doesn't really get their name out there? thanks for the info
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