Malware Menaces: Viruses, Spyware, Botnets & More
Malware ("malicious software") -- spyware, bogus anti-virus apps, rogueware, viruses, scareware, trojan horses, worms, etc.-- is lurking everywhere. Hackers and their botnets are constantly rattling virtual doors looking for easy prey. If you become infected, all sorts of unpleasant things can happen to make your life miserable, including a hacker taking control of your computer as well as your identity.
What you can do? First, "know thy enemy"
- Virus: A program that can copy itself, attach itself to other programs or files, and perform unwanted and unauthorized tasks. May not be easily detected and can be widely spread through the sharing of files, memory devices or email.
- Worm: A computer program that can run independently, cloning itself onto other computers connected to a network. Known to consume computer resources destructively.
- Spyware: An annoying, intrusive, and sometimes offensive program that allows some to covertly gather your information through your Internet connection, often for advertising purposes. Read more in A Spyware Primer.
- Botnet: A network of compromised computers, each acting as a robot (or bot) under the control of a remote user. Often used to send out spam and phishing emails. More background in Botnet 101: Don't Get Own3d!
Second, protect yourself
- Keep your computer's OS and software current. Configure your computer to update its operating system automatically. Accept application updates when offered.
- Protect your computer with an approved anti-malware program. Brown provides comprehensive anti-malware protection, free of charge (more details).
- Look out for bogus antivirus software, which could clandestinely disable any real product, redirect computing resources to it, put your data and privacy at risk, and be nearly impossible to remove.
- Install software, such as Ad-Aware or Spybot Search & Destroy or Malwarebytes, that detect and remove threats.
Third, how to recover from a compromise
- Disinfect your computer following the suggestions in Cleaning an Infected Computer.
- If you have problems or are uncomfortable with the process, contact the Help Desk for assistance.
Fourth, keep an eye out for threats
- Read the Help Desk Alert Blog (linked from CIS's home page)
- Learn how to spot a phish
- Other sources for alerts: Symantec "Threat Explorer" List and SANS Internet Storm Center