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Online Threats - Malware

What is malware?

Is it safe?Malware, short for "malicious software," is a broad category of software which is installed without your permission to damage your PC or spy on your computer activities. The most common types of malware are trojans, worms and viruses.

A trojan is a program that seems harmless or even productive, but is designed to exploit the system where it is run. Worms are self-replicating programs that can be spread through networks of machines with or without the user's intervention. A virus attempts to spread itself by attaching to a host program, and can damage hardware, software or data in the process. Other types of malware are malicious active content, rogue programs and dialers. Trackware is a newer variation of malware that compromises your privacy by tracking, storing and analyzing your browsing patterns. It includes adware, spyware, key loggers and tracking cookies.

Where does malware come from?

Malware is most commonly delivered through the Internet and by email messages that misrepresent a program's purpose and function. Thirty-one percent of dangerous websites feature adult content and can be accessed by mistyping URLs or accidentally clicking unknown links resulting in unintentional exposure to objectionable material. Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks in which users can transfer files directly from one computer to another is a significant risk for malware and adware.

How does malware affect my computer?

Symptoms of malware infection are pop-up ads, general slowdown, or browser redirects to unwanted websites. Malware can disrupt your work or the normal operations of the system by causing a denial of service, corrupting data, taking up system resources and consuming network bandwidth. In addition, your computer may not shut down or restart.

How do I protect myself from malware?

Malware usually come attached with another file so don't open email attachments from unknown or unexpected sources. Never accept files from someone you don't know and be careful when opening files with these extension: .avi, .exe or .jpg.

If you suspect that your computer is infected with malware

  • Stop shopping, banking and online activities that involve user names, passwords or other sensitive information
  • Get anti-virus software to defend your system against the threats
  • Make sure your anti-virus program is up-to-date, scan your computer and delete anything the program identifies as a problem In your haste to get protected, resist the temptation to download software that pops up unexpectedly and claims to have scanned your system and detected malware. This type of software is commonly used to spread malware!

Once your machine is clean

  • Keep your anti-virus software active and current
  • Enable the firewall whenever your computer is connected to the Internet
  • Before you open or play any downloaded files, scan them with your security software
  • Don't open email attachments from unknown or unexpected sources
  • As part of your layered defense, use WOT to warn you about dangerous or suspicious websites

See also Adware, Browser exploits, Internet fraud, Phishing, Spam and Spyware