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Viruses, Worms, & Malware

What can malware do to my computer?

Malware, short for "malicious software," includes a wide variety of bad software including adware, spyware, hijackers, worms, Trojan horses, and viruses which can all wreak havoc on your computer. It can damage or destroy data on your computer. Malware can also hijack your browser, redirect your online searches, and even track your online browsing. Back doors can open up your personal computer to anyone on the Internet. Not only can worms disrupt your own system, they can replicate themselves on the systems of people you are in regular email contact with. Malware can also make your computer become excruciatingly slow and/or unstable.

How can I protect my computer from malware?

  • Never accept software downloads from strangers.
  • Never open unexpected email attachments--verify them first by calling the sender.
  • Always scan attachments and web downloads for viruses first.
  • Avoid P2P file-sharing networks because many downloads come packaged with malware.
  • Keep your computer's software patched and up-to-date.
  • Be sure to install the latest anti-virus software and use and update it regularly. University IT has negotiated a volume license for Sophos Anti-virus software. Be aware, though, that all virus scanners have limitations, and that virus-writing techniques are evolving continually.

There are no guarantees to protecting your computer from malware. Anti-virus software is an important tool to use, but it is no substitute for common sense. If you don’t update virus definition files regularly (weekly, at least) and scan regularly (the whole drive, including “Recycle” and “Trash” bins, not just system areas), then you may be hit with a virus or other software that is destructive and/or compromising.

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