Virus and malware attacks are growing and evolving everyday, primarily on large networks like Towson University. The Office of Technology Services (OTS) has taken considerable measures to protect the campus network-including campus computers and email-from these types of attacks.
What is a Virus?
A computer virus is a program that makes copies of itself, attaches to other programs, and performs unwanted or malicious actions when it runs.
They are designed to corrupt and delete data or spread themselves to other computers. They can become a huge headache by slowing things down and causing other problems in the process.
How can my computer catch a virus?
If an infected file is run on your computer, then it will start copying itself to other files on your computer as you are working. It could be a file on a disk, one that you have copied from the network or one that you have downloaded from the Internet. It can also begin copying itself across the network or through email.
What can a virus do to my computer?
Some viruses are meant to be harmless and display something on the screen, but others can wipe out important data on your hard drive. Viruses can also send large numbers of emails to individuals in your address book.
Tips on preventing Viruses
While it is sometimes difficult to stop a virus from gaining access to your computer, there are many ways you can hold them off:
- Install and run Antivirus software - essential to have if you want a moderately clean PC that will continue to run quickly
- Get Microsoft or Apple weekly security updates - keep up to date, as hackers will try to exploit unpatched versions.
- Recovering from Viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses (article) - US CERT
- How to protect your computer from viruses (article) - Microsoft Windows Support
What is Malware?
Malware is unwanted software that was not specifically installed by the user. It is designed to infiltrate and steal information from a computer system without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Malware can include:
- Worms and viruses - these are usually destructive in some way usually by deleting files, corrupting operating systems, etc.
- Spyware - this malware monitors what you do on your computer and can lead to credit card or identity theft
- Adware - directs you to unwanted advertising, typically pop-up ads or unwanted Web homepages
- Browser hijackers - malware that takes control over your Web browser (such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome) and redirects you to a specific site. These sites often falsely indicate you have a virus and must download their software.
- Ransomware - this uses software to encrypt user data, holding it “hostage” until the demanded ransom is paid to the attackers in exchange for releasing the data back to the user.
Tips on preventing malware
- Only open email attachments that come from a trusted source
- Delete strange messages from unknown users
- Keep security patches up to date
- Scan files that are transferred to you, even if they are from a trusted source