Malicious Software or “Malware” is becoming the general term to cover viruses, worms, spyware or any other programs designed to cause unwanted results on your computer.  Over 70,000 new malware and variants of malware are produced daily.  Nobody really thinks about it, but somewhere out in the cyberworld, they are lurking for you.

A Virus is computer code that is designed to “break” your computer by infecting your executable files.  They can also infect autorun Scripts, MS Office Macros, and the master boot record of a hard drive.  It’ll copy the code into other files and programs until your computer is eventually useless.   In the old days when the floppy drive was popular and essential for moving data, it wasn’t uncommon to leave an unknowingly infected floppy in the drive while booting.  This would move the virus into the master boot record (in most cases) of the computer and cause the computer to be infected.   Most Virus code that infects computers now will either come as an email attachment, or from executing an infected file downloaded from a website.

Malware programmers figured out that it is more profitable for them to generate income rather than render a computer useless.  Spyware and Ransomware are two of the most common ways they do it.

Spyware has been out since the late 90’s and is normally packaged along with “Free” software.  For example:  Let’s say you want some cool screen savers, but most of the websites you go to want a fee to download.  You’re about to give in, but here is this website that has “Free” screensavers.  You download them and life is great.  In a couple of days you notice your default Google webpage has been replaced with a new default (and strange) website page, you have a new toolbar (or maybe more), and when you surf the internet either a new webpage comes up at random, or a link you clicked on totally went somewhere else!  Then after a few weeks, your computer really starts acting sluggish.  The malware programmers are hoping you’ll buy something off the random sites so they’ll either get a referral fee, or collect your credit card information for their use. Most spyware programs are more of a nuisance, but they can be programmed to steal usernames and passwords, as well as, any other personal information.

Ransomware has become popular over the last 3 years.  Most Ransomware pops up when you turn on the computer, and overall makes your computer useless until you purchase their software.  The two most common Ransomware programs will either tell you that your computer is “infected” and will start generating a bogus report of all the files that are infected, and the other will state that a law enforcement agency (FBI for one) has deemed that there are illegal files on your computer.  Either way, if you pay their fee they will “fix” your computer (not).  These files are generally downloaded from a website without your knowledge and executed the next time you start your computer.

By having a up to date Anti-Virus program that has Malware capabilities and being wary of downloading “Free” stuff from the internet, you can reduce the risk of infecting your computer.

Filed under: Malware and Viruses

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