July 30, 2004
Anti-virus software is valuable for protecting your computer against viruses but they often miss new computer parasites. As security threats have grown to encompass more than viruses, security experts have adopted the term malware to describe all malicious code. Malware includes spyware, adware and browser hijackers. Spyware and Adware are marketing driven parasites. They are often a way for "free" software authors to make money. If you download "free" software it may come bundled with tracking software (spyware) that keeps track of your keystrokes and reports the data back to advertisers. There are also products that display advertising popups (adware) based on data collected. Since this software is continuously "calling home" using your internet connection, it can significantly slow down the performance of your computer. Browser hijackers can redirect your internet start page or change the default search service you have set. These files can automatically install when you visit a web site or may ask for permission in a confusing way that can trick you into consenting.
The best way to prevent Malware from invading your machine is to be very careful about what you download to your computer. Read popup windows carefully before clicking yes or no. Often the popups are written in such a way that clicking "no" will actually allow the software to be loaded on your machine. Do not intentionally download programs such as Gator, Gain, Comet Cursor, Xupiter or HotBar. These are just a few of the common ones we see on machines on campus. You should avoid downloading any coupon programs, filesharing programs and additional search bars if you want to avoid popups and keep your computer running smooth.
If you already find your computer bogged down with Malware please call the Helpdesk at X4357.
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