Not everyone on the internet has your best interests in mind. Malware and viruses abound, but there are ways to protect yourself. First let’s take a look at some steps you can take for a safer surfing experience. After that, we’ll get to know the enemy a little bit.
1) Think about what you click. If a banner ad promises you’ve won a free iPad, it’s probably trying to trick you. Free games have to make money somehow. Usually it’s through advertising, but not always.
2) Make sure your device’s operating system, browser and all other software are up to date. Updates are important, that’s why so many programs will hound you until you perform them.
3) Use both an anti-virus and anti-malware scanner. As new malware is found it is added to a list of all known malware. These are called Definitions, and should be updated regularly with whatever anti-virus program you decide to use. A good combination is AVG Free and Malwarebytes. Both are available at no charge from their respective websites.
As a wise man once said, “Knowing is half the battle.” A virus is always malware, though malware isn’t always a virus.
Malware (short for malicious software) is a general descriptive term for any software that seeks to do things such as damage your computer or collect personal data.
A virus is a small line of code that hides in a legitimate program or file. Specifically it’s code that replicates itself and tries to spread to other computers on the network, much like a biological virus spreads from person to person. One of its favorite methods of replicating itself is sending a copy of itself to everyone in your email address book. We’ve all heard not to click on attachments from people we don’t know, but did you know that some viruses can be launched merely by being viewed from the preview pane in your email viewer?
Also called scareware, ransomware will lock down your computer until you pay a fee. A recent version of this is the FBI Virus. You will see an official looking page telling you the FBI has locked your computer and won’t release it until you pay them $300 (via moneypack, a prepaid credit card service.)
Doing exactly as its name says, a keylogger will record everything entered via keyboard, hoping to catch you doing some online banking or shopping.
Like its infamous Greek counterpart, a Trojan Horse poses as a legitimate program or game, but once it’s inside your hard drive and has been run… well, it doesn’t end happily.
Including keyloggers and adware, spyware invades your privacy by tracking your internet usage habits. At best it aggressively tailors pop up ads relevant to your browsing history. At worst it can gather personal information such as credit card information, passwords or other sensitive data.
Do you get redirected to websites you never intended to go to? Did your homepage change from what you set it to? This could be the sign of a hijacker. These programs will change your browser settings, force you to navigate to web pages you don’t want to or install toolbars that decrease system performance.
There are others. If you’re not sure send us an email and ask!