What is Malware and What To Do About It

I’m sure you’ve all heard about computer security and malware and many other terms that you may not understand. Today, I am going to give you some of the definitions and facts. Once you better understand your enemy, you will be better prepared to defend against it.

Malware Defined

Let’s start with malware. The definition of malware is “malicious software.” Malware is a term for all the software and programs that you do not install yourself and are created for the purpose of getting access to your computer without you knowing it. When you are referring to a virus, you really mean malware.

Malware Locations

Malware can come from several different places. The 3 main places you get malware from are:

  1. A hacked website – A hacker inserts code into a website and the owner probably doesn’t know about it. You visit the blog and now you are infected.
  2. Clicking on ads – These are the nasty pop up ads that tells you that you have a virus. Don’t click on those. They will give you a virus.
  3. Phishing attacks – These would be the messages on Facebook telling you to get your free iPad if you click on their link.

You do not want any of these three on your computer which is why it is so important to take precautions so you don’t get malware. It is often difficult to remove the malware without doing harm. At the very least, you waste precious time trying to search the internet for the instructions to get rid of the malware rather than playing games or working.

Where Does Malware Come From?

Malware is software that is malicious in nature that can become installed on your computer, sometimes by no fault of your own. This malicious software can do anything from steal your passwords to websites, force you to purchase “antivirus” software (I’ll get into that a bit more), or just cause your computer to be really slow because of how it runs in the background without your knowledge.

One of the biggest questions I get when I’m helping someone remove malware from their computer is “How did this get there??” The short answer is that malware can come from anywhere. To prevent it from getting on your computer though, there are things you can watch for.

1. A hacked website

A blog that you frequent could have some security holes in their setup. This has allowed a hacker to come in and insert code into the website. The website owner may not even be aware that the code is there. Once the code is inside a website that you already trust, it can run a script to prompt you to download something. You think it’s ok, since this a website you have often visited and trust. To block this form of attack, never download something that you did not initiate. If a website says it needs to install something on your computer for you to view the website, you may want to check with the website owner. Likely that will not be the case (except for Flash or Silverlight, and in those cases I would go straight to www.adobe.com or www.microsoft.comto download the plugins. Don’t believe that the website will download flash for you, it could be a trick).

2. Clicking Ads

Sometimes a trusted or even untrusted website will tell you that you have a virus on your computer! It scares you and you click to see what it is, or even to scan your computer… PLEASE DON’T!!! Usually these pop ups are nothing more than ads trying to force you to purchase their software. This “antivirus” software usually just installs more viruses on your computer, and can really mess it up. Never believe anything an ad says.

3. Phishing Attacks

Some of these attacks are really very believable, some are obvious. No, no one is giving out free iPads on Facebook. No, this is NOT you in this video. No, no, no. If a friend posts a link directly on your facebook wall, or video, it usually is something malicious. If they want to share the link they will share it on their own wall. Unless it’s specific to you two. Like you would always watch a certain movie together and they posted a link to the movie clip on your wall. I’m sure that is a fine link to click on, but as a rule, no one is going to post a generic link or video on your wall. And again, NO this is NOT you in this video. (There is a video link, that is a virus with the title “is this you in this video?” or “I can’t believe you did this” for those that haven’t seen it)

As I mentioned before, even websites you trust can get hacked, and install malicious software on your computer, so it is extremely important to run scans for malware frequently, so you know what is going on with your computer! Check out ChicaPC-Shield™ for FREE to find out what is lurking on your computer!

Preventing Malware

Just like the uninvited cold that humans get, you can not predict when your computer will become infected, so prevention is the best medicine.

  • Install security software on your computer. It is like a watch dog for your computer
  • Never click on a link in a message or email unless you know where the link will take you.
  • Be careful of what you download from the internet. Be sure it is from reputable sources.
  • If you connect to public wi-fi, be sure to use a password for access to your computer.

The hackers are always coming up with new ways to mess up our computers, so it is important that your security software is always up-to-date. As I always say, technology can enhance your life, but you need to take care of your technology too.

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