What is malware?

Malware is short for “malicious software.” Malware is used to disrupt a computer’s normal operations, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It may appear as executable code, scripts, or other software. Malware can include computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, or adware. It can be found in downloadable programs from a website that may be otherwise useful.

You may have malware if:

  • Pop-up advertisements are appearing all the time
  • Settings have changed and cannot be changed back to previous settings
  • Your web browser has additional components that you are unaware of downloading
  • Your computer seems to be running particularly slow

Viruses

There are a number of real virus threats, but there are also a number of computer virus hoaxes. These hoaxes normally appear in the form of an alarming email message describing the terrible results of receiving an email message virus, and instructs the reader to forward the warning to as many people as possible. The actual problem is the generation of massive amounts of email by persons who follow the instructions and forward the message to as many people as they know.

IST staff remain as up-to-date as possible on the various virus threats that are prevalent and take the necessary measures to safeguard against our network being affected. There is no need to forward email virus warnings. If you receive such a warning or have any doubts about whether or not a virus is legitimate, you can contact the IT Help Desk.

Most of the email spread viruses are of the visual basic scripting (VBS) variety. A virus of this type works by executing a VBS script that performs malicious activity on your computer. You can avoid VBS script viruses by:

  1. not using the Microsoft Outlook email client to run Gmail. While VBS scripts can run in various Microsoft applications like Word, VBS email viruses primarily target the Microsoft Outlook email client.
  2. not opening unknown email attachments. If you were not expecting an attachment, don’t open it.

How can I protect my computer against malware and viruses?

Make sure to download and install an antivirus application to protect your computer. For a list of recommended antivirus applications that are free to download and install, see the article Recommended antivirus applications.

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