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Suspicious and malicious – what is malware?

By Mark Molzen

Malware, the term for “malicious software,” is a collective term used to describe a program or file that can harm a computer, mobile device, or network. Malware can take on several forms, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware.

Malware attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated. Malware originally appeared within e-mails, but has since morphed into other forms such as popping up within images, video clips, and even media players. Identity thieves continue to evolve and change their tactics as quickly as the public is educated by security companies and Internet providers.

What does malware do?

A malware infection can damage computers, facilitate identity theft, and cause the loss of important files and information. Here are a few examples of malware’s impact:

– Spreads infections to your friends or coworkers.

– Embeds keystroke trackers to allow your passwords, user ID, credit card, and other financial information to be captured.

– Tracks information about the Web pages you visit, your favorite shopping sites, and more.

– Creates a digital trail to you for crimes someone else commits.

– Uses your computer to store or distribute illegal, stolen, pirated, or illicit files.

– Copies files from your computer in order to file false tax returns, or to apply for loans or credit cards.

How do I defend against malware?

Protecting your system against malicious software requires a layered approach to security. There is no single tool that will reliably block all malware attacks. Here are some basic security practices that you can use to minimize malware attacks:

– Obtain antivirus software and keep it running and updated at least weekly. Many software programs can be set to automatically update.

– Make sure to apply system patches offered by your operating system manufacturer as soon as they are released.

– Never reveal your user ID and password – keep them confidential.

– Do not open e-mail attachments from an unknown source.

– Do not download or install unfamiliar software.

– Learn to recognize signs of a virus infection, such as slow computer performance, system crashes, bounced e-mail, and anti-virus warnings.

– Do not forward virus warnings to your friends and coworkers.

For additional tips on Internet security, visit: http://news.centurylink.com/resources/tips/centurylink-consumer-security-tips-online-security

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