Viruses, Trojans and Worms, oh my!
Recently, we've had several people come to the IT Department with their personal computer or laptop, which has become infected with a virus (or trojan or worm ...there are differences!) and needing help cleaning things up. We're happy to help out and can provide some assistance (providing the help does not interfere with school duties!), but it really is each individual's responsibility to Take Care of Yourself and be informed and protected against malware.
What is malware? Malware is a generic term for any kind of application that can run on your computer. This includes viruses, spyware, worms, trojans and other nasties. A virus is an application programmed to spread itself and automatically attach itself to a computer. A trojan is designed to implant itself by concealing itself inside something appealing or benign-looking. A worm is designed to tunnel into systems. Spyware is designed to see what you're doing (e.g. what passwords you're typing) and send that information out. A good definition and links to more information is at Webopedia: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/M/malware.html
Who can get malware? In short: anybody who uses a computer. Windows is particularly prone to malware, mostly because of its dominance in the market but also because of many security holes. Anybody who uses Windows and does not ensure good anti-virus protection is asking for trouble. Macintosh and Linux (including Ubuntu) computers are far less likely to get malware, but it is possible.
How do you protect yourself? Firstly, have a good anti-virus software installed and running and update it regularly (daily)! It's no good having anti-virus software and not updating it. If you don't want to pay for an annual subscription to anti-virus software updates, try out free alternatives:
In addition to relying on software, you also have to be a careful user of the internet. Scareware is common – sites and messages that try to scare you into downloading malware – as are phishing scams that try to trick you into giving others your financial or other information. Think before you click is a good watchword – don't just download software or follow links without considering that it could be unsafe. Any computer user should have some awareness of dangers and how to avoid them. There's a wealth of information available – one I use regularly is the National Cyber Security Alliance's website, http://www.staysafeonline.org
Do I have to do all this work? It would be nice to not have any unpleasant or dangerous people, places or things in the world. However, while driving our cars or walking the streets or going shopping we have to be aware of dangers and take precautions ...so, too, must we be actively cautious while using computers and working, playing, shopping and living online. Be aware, be protected, be safe.