Most people have heard of computer viruses, but not many know exactly what they are or what they do.
What they are:
Malicious computer programs that are often sent as an email attachment or a download with the intent of infecting your computer, as well as the computers of everyone in your contact list. Just visiting a site can start an automatic download of a virus.
What they can do:
- Send spam.
- Provide criminals with access to your computer and contact lists.
- Scan and find personal information like passwords on your computer.
- Hijack your web browser.
- Disable your security settings.
- Display unwanted ads.
When a program is running, the virus attached to it could infiltrate your hard drive and also spread to USB keys and external hard drives. Any attachment you create using this program and send to someone else could also infect them with the virus.
How will you know if your computer is infected?
Here are a few things to check for:
- It takes longer than usual for your computer to start up, it restarts on its own or doesn’t start up at all.
- It takes a long time to launch a program.
- Files and data have disappeared.
- Your system and programs crash constantly.
- The homepage you set on your web browser is different (note that this could be caused by Adware that has been installed on your computer).
- Web pages are slow to load.
- Your computer screen looks distorted.
- Programs are running without your control.
If you suspect a problem, make sure your security software is up to date and run it to check for infection. If nothing is found, or if you are unsure of what to do, seek technical help.
Spyware & Adware
Spyware and adware are often used by third parties to infiltrate your computer.
What it is:
Software that collects personal information about you without you knowing. They often come in the form of a ‘free’ download and are installed automatically with or without your consent. These are difficult to remove and can infect your computer with viruses.
What it can do:
- Collect information about you without you knowing about it and give it to third parties.
- Send your usernames, passwords, surfing habits, list of applications you’ve downloaded, settings, and even the version of your operating system to third parties.
- Change the way your computer runs without your knowledge.
- Take you to unwanted sites or inundate you with uncontrollable pop-up ads.
Malware is one of the more common ways to infiltrate or damage your computer.
What it is:
Malicious software that infects your computer, such as computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and adware.
What it can do:
- Intimidate you with scareware, which is usually a pop-up message that tells you your computer has a security problem or other false information.
- Reformat the hard drive of your computer causing you to lose all your information.
- Alter or delete files.
- Steal sensitive information.
- Send emails on your behalf.
- Take control of your computer and all the software running on it.
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