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The Scary Truth About Malware

Drive By Malware

In my experience, most virus/malware infections get into your computer through infected websites.  If you visit an infected website, it will try to download malware onto your computer. This is generally referred to as “Drive by Malware”.

Other forms of malware are:

1.     Spyware – tracks websites you visit and what you view in order to tailor advertising efforts.  Spyware will also slow your system down.

2.     Keyloggers – keeps track of your keystrokes, all to gain access to your credit card information.

3.     Scareware – pretends to be anti-virus software and then tries to extort payment from you for a cleanup.

4.     Ransomware – will render your PC inoperable until you pay money for a fix.

5.     Rootkits – turns your PC into a computer used to send out tons of spam, or to attack websites.

You may think that you only visit safe websites, but no site is immune to becoming infected by a drive by malware attack.  Recently, the LA Times was infected, and it was not discovered for 6 weeks.  Even the most trustworthy of sites can be serving up malware, without their knowledge.  You must be proactive in order to keep your computer safe and malware free.  Here are some things you can do to protect your computer:

  1. Make sure you install operating system updates on a consistent basis.All versions of Microsoft Windows has a feature that allows you to install updates as they are available.  You can find the settings in the Control Panel in the area for Windows Update.

  2. Use antivirus software.  Yes, there are many people out there who do not deploy anti virus, anti malware, or internet security software.  This is like living in a dangerous neighborhood and leaving your front door wide open at night.  Lock your computer.  I recommend Kaspersky Internet Security, Trend Micro, or AVG AntiVirus.

  3. Most browsers have add-ins, plug-ins, or extensions, that enhance the browser with functionality not already built in.  Turn off any plug-ins that are not absolutely necessary.  This can include any browser toolbars, such as the toolbar, google toolbar, television toolbars, etc.  They are conduits for malware to enter your system.

  4. Make a choice to either disable and remove Java from your system, or keep it up-to-date when updates are released.  Java is a tool that many websites, and even appliances use, to perform certain functions.  It is a vulnerable piece of software and must be kept off your system or as up-to-date as possible.  If you keep it off your system, know that you will encounter some websites that will not run properly without it.  It is a trade-off.

  5. Adobe Reader has been found to be vulnerable to malware as well.   Disable all PDF plug-ins in your browser.

  6. Eliminate Spam.  You can do this by having one email address that you give to friends and family, and then another email address that you use for any website that requires an email address, such as online shopping.  Never use your primary email address for shopping on the internet.  Many sites sell their email lists and that is how you end up with so much spam.

  7. Keep Adobe Flash updated.  Adobe Flash is used in many websites.  When you are prompted to update it, do so.

When you update Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and Java, please be mindful of the screens the update wizard takes you through.  On one of the screens you will be told the update also wants to add other software.  Uncheck the box and do not allow it to add any other software other than the update.  This is how the Ask Toolbar and McAfee Security Scan get on your computer.

Doing all of the above will go a very long way to keeping your computer safe from Malware.  As always, if you need assistance with any of this, we are here to assist.

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