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Virus and Malware Protection

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a young student reacts to a sudden alert on his laptop

Everyone knows about viruses and how much trouble they cause, but viruses are actually part of a larger group of malicious programs called malware. Simply put, they are malicious programs that run without your permission. They can modify other programs on your computer, spread to other devices, and send information to hackers. There are many different kinds of malware, and each works differently.

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a cartoon monster representing a computer virus
Virus
Spreads by inserting a copy of itself into another program.

Effects can range from annoying pop-ups to destroyed data and crashed software.
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Trojan Horse
Has the appearance of legitimate software.

Commonly used by hackers as a way into your system so that other malware can be installed.
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an upright worm representing a computer worm
Worm
Functions on its own without being attached to another file.

Similar to viruses in the type of damage it causes.
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cartoon monster with a cage for teeth representing ransomware
Ransomware
Encrypts your files and makes demands (usually money) that you must meet to get a decryption key to unlock your files.
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Bot
Automates certain attacks.

Malicious bots will propagate, connect back to the hacker, and then be used for mass attacks.
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Spyware
Gathers information about you and your computer usage.

Allows criminals to spy on you, paving the way for identity theft, blackmail, and other vicious crimes.
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    What should I look for in antivirus software?

    You should always have reputable antivirus software downloaded on your devices. Good antivirus software will always meet the following criteria:

    • Provides frequent version and definition updates to combat the latest threats. 
    • Consistently wins awards from industry-leading publications. 
    • Has a dedicated, round-the-clock research team devoted to tracking virus evolution. 
    • Is backed by an innovative company with a solid business reputation.  
    • Does not advertise in pop-up ads or on questionable Web sites, such as gambling or pornographic sites.  
    • Does not appear before you download it.  
    • Google the product you are considering. If results such as “remove [product name] appear,” it is probably a questionable application.  

    Some commonly used softwares include Norton, Avast!, McAfee, and AVG. CES Universities use Sophos for our enterprise security software. A consumer-grade option, Sophos Home , is available for free.

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    How else do I keep malware off my device?

    There are several methods to prevent malware from entering your system:

    Educate yourself on how malware works (good job, you're already doing that!)

    Don't click on unfamiliar links. If you aren't sure where the link came from or where it goes, it's not worth the risk. One good practice is to hover over the link to see its URL appear in the bottom right corner of your browser. If it goes somewhere unexpected, it's probably malware.

    Read emails carefully if they come from an unfamiliar sender. Spelling and grammar errors can reveal a hacker trying to trick you. See our phishing page for more information.

    Don't visit sites that offer free access to things you should be paying for. It is always a gamble whether the files you are accessing are clean. This includes file-sharing sites.

    Don't give out personal information to anyone without verifying how it will be used and by whom. Make sure people are who they say they are.

    Don't give remote access to your computer to strangers.
    Our pages on Software Updates , Two-Factor Authentication , Passwords , and Backups give even more tips for preventing malware attacks.

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    How do I know if I've been infected with malware?

    1. Your Anti-virus and Task Manager (Activity Monitor for Mac) are disabled or show reduced information and can't be restarted.

    2. Your friends receive social media invites from someone claiming to be you.

    3. Your browser will have extra toolbars that you didn’t install.

    4. Your password for a site no longer works, even if you are absolutely certain you are entering the correct one.

    5. Your mouse begins to move on its own and it makes selections that make sense.

    6. You receive calls about nonpayment of shipped goods when you didn’t buy anything.

    7. There is a message on your screen about paying a ransom.

    8. There are constant notifications about installing an antivirus program when you already have one or you have dismissed the notification multiple times

    9. Your search engine results don’t quite match up with what you searched for

    10. There is software installed on your computer that you didn’t install

    11. Most of your money is gone from your online accounts

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    What should I do if I've been infected with malware?
    1. Don't panic.
    2. Turn off your system if you see suspicious activity (like a cursor moving on its own).
    3. Uninstall all software that wasn't installed by you.
    4. Contact your financial institution if money has been stolen.
    5. Restore your systems with any backups you may have kept.
    6. Change the password to any of your accounts that may have been compromised.

LEARN MORE

Learn how to change your password, how to create a security question, and how to create passwords that protect your account.
Learn general tips for keeping your physical devices protected from unauthorized access and other physical threats.
Learn why keeping the operating system on your devices up to date is actually a very important security precaution.
Learn how to protect yourself from being scammed, tricked, or hacked while surfing the web.
Learn what steps you can take to ensure that your social media accounts are protected.
Learn how to identify and avoid scam emails, texts, and more. Phishing scams steal personal info on a regular basis.
Learn how 2-Factor Authentication services like DUO protect your account from hackers and accidental access.
Learn the difference between secured and unsecured Wi-Fi networks and how to be safe when connecting to a wireless network.
Learn about different data storage options and consider which options are best for your needs.
Learn about methods criminals might use to obtain your information by building false trust.
Learn how to be healthy and secure while following shelter-in-place instructions