Malware and Spyware
Malware is short for "malicious software." It is software that is intended to cause harm to the user's computer or compromise personal data. Spyware is a specific type of malware that is installed on a computer without the user's consent. These programs can wreak havoc in a number of ways, including monitor a user's behavior, stealing personal data, installing additional software, and redirecting browser activity.
To lower your risk of malware infections:
- Download software only from sites you know and trust.
- Set your browser security high enough to detect unauthorized downloads.
- Check your operating system documentation to see if it may also have controls to prevent malicious software installations.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and set them to update automatically.
- Don't click on links inside pop-up windows.
- Don't click on links in spam that claim to offer anti-spyware software; you may unintentionally be installing spyware.
Clues that malware may be on your computer include:
- A sudden increase in pop-up ads
- Your Web browser takes you to sites other than those you type into the address box
- A sudden or repeated change in your computer's Internet home page
- New and unexpected toolbars
- New and unexpected icons on the system tray at the bottom of your computer screen
- Keys that don't work (for example, the "Tab" key that might not work when you try to move to the next field in a Web form)
- Random error messages
- Slowed computer performance
If you suspect you have malware:
Use the latest version of anti-virus and anti-spyware to clean your computer. Here is a list of a few reputable security software vendors and their websites: