FAQ: Malware

 This article answers some frequently asked questions about malware.

Audience 

Everyone

Platform

All computers and mobile devices, including Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, etc.

Contents

What is malware, and what does it do?

Malware, short for “malicious software," is unwanted software that you may be tricked into running or which can run itself as a result of a security vulnerability in your computer or mobile device. It can record your keystrokes to steal your passwords or other information, steal data from your computer or online accounts, allow attackers back-door access to your computer, encrypt your data and hold the decryption keys for ransom, or use your computer to attack others.

Malware is a broad category that covers viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, ransomware, keyloggers, rootkits, and bots. Unwanted adware may also be considered malware. The distinctions and overlaps between these types of malware are less important than knowing what you can do to avoid falling victim to them.

How can I avoid getting infected?

Unfortunately, no computer or mobile device can be made 100% safe from malware, but there are things you can do to greatly reduce the likelihood and impact of becoming infected.

  • Keep your operating system and software up-to-date: Enable automatic updates on both your operating system and programs you use (such as Office, Internet browsers, Java, Adobe Acrobat Reader), and allow them to install restart your computer when prompted. Applying security updates ("patches") soon after they become available is easy, and it's the single most effective security protection at your disposal. The vast majority of malware and other security attacks rely on known vulnerabilities for which patches are already available.
  • Steer clear of phishing emails: A very common attack method is to send someone malware via a link or attachment in an email that is pretending to be legitimate. Please refer to our article on phishing for more information on how recognize phishing emails and avoid becoming a victim.
  • Use anti-virus software: Anti-virus software is not a silver bullet that will stop all attacks, but it remains a useful and necessary tool. Ithaca College provides Microsoft Windows Defender (previously called SCEP) on all college-owned Windows and Mac computers.

How can I tell if my computer is infected?

It has become increasingly difficult to tell if a computer is infected, so prevention is your best option. However, answering yes to any of the following questions may mean you are more likely to have an infection.

  • Have you clicked on any suspicious links or attachments in an email?
  • Have you installed any new software from a sketchy source?
  • Have spam emails been sent from your account without your knowledge?
  • Has your computer suddenly become slower?
  • Has your anti-virus software warned you about an infection or quarantined files?

What should I do if I think I have malware?

Details

Article ID: 83
Created
Thu 8/3/17 10:01 AM
Modified
Wed 11/4/20 11:21 AM