Malware Defined and How to Avoid It

by Barbara J. Feldman on July 11, 2007

Our lives have changed drastically with the dawn of the computer age. Over 80% of American homes now have computers, and 55% have web connections. The computer era that we are now living in not only supports education and commerce, it also supports a host of scams, shady business practices, and general badness. All of the bad things that can get on your computer have names that are so new they can’t even be found in most dictionaries. There are Trojans, worms, viruses, spywares, adwares, popups, and more. In general, this “bad stuff” is called “malware” which might be translated as “badware”. You can definitely think of it as badware.

The main thing you can do to prevent malware from contaminating your computer is to never go online without protection. You should purchase an anti-virus package that covers all of the malware. These comprehensive packages can be purchased when you buy your computer, as software, or they can be downloaded. The software usually costs around $50.00 per year, but it will protect you against incredible losses.

What is at risk if you don’t purchase an anti-malware package? The worst thing might be that you put your identity at risk. If you are typing any personal information into online forms, that information is available to the bad guys if spyware gets on your computer. Spyware is like the file sharing software that people use to share music and other files. However, spyware is filesharing that you didn’t sign up for and know nothing about.

Another risk, if you aren’t protected, is from viruses and worms. Viruses and worms are an infectious kind of malware, meaning they get into your computer and then spread to other computers that you are in contact with. An email virus, once it infects your computer, will go ahead and mail itself to all of the contacts in your address books. Viruses are very destructive and can erase your entire hard drive (everything on your computer) in almost no time. The loss of a hard drive can be devastating.

What kind of things put you at risk for malware? There are a number of risk factors. Two things to always avoid involve email attachments and file sharing. The number one way that viruses are spread is through email attachments. Be extremely careful when opening email attachments. Never open any attachment if you don’t know who it came from. This is not foolproof however, because email viruses will be sent from a host computer that has you in “contacts”. Therefore, the virus can come from a trusted friend. One way to avoid getting one of these sneaky viruses is to not open an email attachment that does not have a personal message accompanying it.

File sharing is another high-risk online activity. When you put filesharing software on your computer, you are placing spyware onto your hard drive. Most of the commercially available file sharing software comes with powerful spyware blockers to help you keep the bad guys out of your computer, but once you open that door, it is very hard to keep them out. It is a better idea to never put the file sharing software on, and then you won’t have to worry about who you are sharing your files with.

What can you do if you do get malware on your computer? Even if you are careful, you might still get malware on your computer. If this happens, you will need to try and remove it. There are free removal tools available on the web. Microsoft offers a free removal tool that can be downloaded from Microsoft.com. Another thing that you can try is to go into “Internet options” from the “tools” tag on your menu and delete all of your cookies and all of your temporary files. The problem with malware is that it is often programmed to re-install with every reboot of your computer. If this is the case and you remove it, it will come back next time you log on.
The best way to handle malware is to not get it in the first place.

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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Malware Defined and How to Avoid It." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 11 Jul. 2007. Web. 1 Oct. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/1092/malware-defined-and-how-to-avoid-it/ >.