What is the difference between a Virus and Malware?
A virus is just one type of malware. The term malware refers to any malicious software, including a computer virus.
Viruses are a specific type of malware designed to replicate and spread, while malware is a broad term used to describe all sorts of unwanted or malicious code. Malware can include viruses, spyware, adware, nagware, trojans, worms, and more. However, because viruses made headlines a few years ago, most security companies focused their marketing on them, which is why they're called "antivirus."
8 Ways You Can Get a Virus or Malware
1. Accepting without Reading
One of the most common ways a computer becomes infected with a virus or malware is by accepting what you see on the screen without reading it first.
a. If your browsing the Internet and an advertisement or window pops up that says your computer is infected or that a unique plug-in is required and without fully understanding what you're getting, you accept or click the prompt.
b. When installing or updating a program, you're often asked if you want "additional software" to be installed. Often, this option is presented as a check box, which is already checked. So, if you click "Next" or "OK," the program considers that as permission, and installs the software — whether you want it or not. For this reason, you want to be careful when installing software. Make sure to read everything on every screen of the installation process before clicking any buttons.
2. Downloading Infected Software - When downloading any software (programs, games, updates, etc.) through the internet, make sure you're downloading the software from a reliable source.
3. Opening e-mail attachments – Generally speaking, you should not open e-mail you were not expecting to receive. Computers can become infected when users open e-mail attachments that contain malicious code. Even if the message is from a co-worker, friend, or family member, always use caution before opening a link or downloading an attachment.
4. Inserting or Connecting and infected device - Inserting a CD or thumb drive into your computer can infect your computer with a virus. A common tactic used by hackers to gain access to a network is by leaving out a thumb drive with malicious code on it. Then, when a user puts the thumb drive into their computer, it becomes infected with a virus.
5. Visiting unknown sites- Anyone, anywhere can create a website. You should be aware of this when you visit a website for the first time, and you're not sure what it is.
A malicious website may have the capability to read files on your computer, transfer malicious files to you, or access your sensitive information. Always be cautious, and beware of any link you receive in chat, e-mail, or SMS.
6. Not running the latest updates - Many of the updates, especially those associated with Microsoft Windows, are security oriented. Always keep your operating system and programs up-to-date.
7. Pirating software, music, or movies - If you or someone on your computer is connected to a file distribution network, and copyrighted music, movies, or software is downloaded or shared, you may be at risk.
8. No antivirus/malware software - If you're running a computer with Microsoft Windows, we highly recommended you have some form of antivirus and malware protection. This software can remove any existing viruses and spyware, and it helps prevent future infections.
5 Ways to Prevent Getting a Virus or Malware
1. Having an effective and lightweight software is the first step; maintaining it is the second. Free anti-virus software is better than nothing, but keep in mind that it’s not the best solution. Microsoft does provide a security package for “free.” It’s free in that if you have Windows on your machine, you are granted access, but you did pay for your Windows license. Many users aren’t aware of this program, but it’s actually decent protection.
2. Whether you are running Windows or Mac operating system, keep it up to date. Our computers connect to our files, printers, or the Internet via a Wi-Fi connection. Therefore, it’s important that your Wi-Fi requires a password to access it and that the password is strong.
3. Avoid websites that provide pirated material. Do not open an email attachment from somebody or a company that you do not know. Do not click on a link in an unsolicited email. Always hover over a link (especially one with a URL shortener) before you click to see where the link is really taking you. If you have to download a file from the Internet, an email, an FTP site, a file-sharing service, etc., scan it before you run it. A good anti-virus software will do that automatically, but make sure it is being done.
4. When you are at the local coffee shop, library, and especially the airport, don’t use the “free” open (non-password, non-encrypted) Wi-Fi.
5. Typically, we use the same email address or username for all of our accounts. Those are easy to see and steal. If you use the same password for everything, or on many things, and it is discovered, then it takes only seconds to hack your account. Use a strong password. Use lower case, upper case, numbers, and symbols in your password. Keep it easy to remember but difficult to guess.
8 Ways to Know if your Computer Has a Virus or Malware
1. Slow performance - If your PC is taking longer than normal to start or programs are taking ages to open, then your PC may have a virus. If your computer’s performance is sluggish, check first that it isn’t due to a lack of RAM memory or hard disk space. If not, the culprit may be a virus.
2. Your antivirus software is disabled - Some viruses are designed to disable your computer’s protection. So, if you can’t open or install an anti-virus program or your firewall, your computer may be infected.
3. Your friends say they’ve received strange messages from you – This is rampant among Facebook users today. For instance, you might receive a message from a Facebook friend telling you that they’ve found a video with you in it and they’d like you to check it out. Don’t! This is an example of just one way that the virus/malware can spread.
4. Slow or No internet connection – Some viruses are designed to block your Wi-Fi connection. If you are confident that your hardware and service is fine, then you may have a virus.
5. Annoying ads/pop-up messages - Unexpected onscreen ads are a typical sign of a virus infection. Not only are they annoying, other malware may lurk inside poised to wreck further havoc. Never click on a suspicious pop-up – even if it says ‘a virus was detected’. This is an example of rogueware, which asks you to pay for a program to remove a fake virus but may in fact allow even more malware to be downloaded.
6. Crashes and error messages - If programs start opening and closing automatically, your system freezes or shuts down for no reason, or you see odd error messages, then you may have a virus infection.
7. Excessively active hard drive - An excessively active hard disk where it makes continual noise or constantly spins – even though you’re not using your computer nor have any programs running – can be a sign your PC is infected with a virus. If you suddenly find yourself with low storage space on your hard drive, you might have a virus.
8. Your browser homepage changed without your knowledge – If you’re normal homepage is Google but one day you open your internet browser and it takes you to a different homepage, you may be infected.
What Should I Do If I Have a Virus or Malware?
Install and run an anti-virus software program to remove malware. Then set the software to automatically scan your system on a regular basis and keep it up-to-date to protect against the most recent threats.
What Antivirus/Malware Software do you use?