Likely ways to get malware infections such as spyware and viruses
First and foremost understand three things:
- Trust no message sent to your computer from anyone.
- Free is not free.
- Visiting websites which are unknown to you is dangerous.
The three most common ways computers become infected is from opening email attachments which contain malware, downloading files off of the internet or visiting a malicious website.
Many worms use email to send spam and to spread themselves to other computers. They use email addresses that are found in email address books on the infected computer, so that the email appears to come from people you know. These emails are disguised as something official or useful, such as security updates for your computer or official business from a bank or IT department. Never trust emails with links to security updates. Be aware that emails which appear to come from people you know, may contain harmful links. These links are usually disguised as innocent web locations.
Another very common way of catching a virus is from downloading things from the Internet. The most common websites are those that offer free downloads such as screensavers, background images, pornography, music files or any other free download you can imagine. Internet scoundrels have even figured out a way to put viruses in pictures that you can download and save to your computer. Another very common way of getting malware infections is use of P2P software such as Kazaa or Morpheus. Again, free is not free.
The third most common way to end up with an infected computer is by simply visiting websites setup to lure visitors with the intent of tricking the user in to clicking on a link which will download malicious software. You may be offered free software or images, or a pop up window may appear which will download malware whether you click ‘OK' or ‘Cancel' or ‘Exit' or any other button, or you may be tricked in to clicking on a link to a page which actually downloads malware. Internet Explorer is the most targeted web browser which is why IU South Bend IT recommends alternative web browsers such as Firefox from mozilla.org.
Now for a fact which may be quite surprising to you. You can turn on your computer, have it attached to the network, not be reading email, not surfing the web, not downloading anything, and be vulnerable, simply by being attached to the network. It has been documented that an unprotected, unpatched computer attached to the network will be compromised in as little as 8 minutes.
To learn how to protect yourself, follow the links on security at IU South Bend and protecting your computer at home.