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Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: How to Detect and Avoid and Malware

What is Malware

We’ve all heard of malware, but beyond knowing that it’s bad for your computer, we generally don’t know much about it. Fortunately, with a little bit of effort, malware is easy to recognize and avoid.

Malware is the general term given to any unwanted software which makes unnecessary or malicious changes to your computer. It is usually designed to look legitimate, so it can be easy to install by mistake. Those pop-up ads telling you that your computer has been infected by numerous viruses and that you must install some program immediately to quell the infection? Malware. Constantly being redirected to some unwanted website? Malware. Luckily, though malware infections can be inconvenient and time consuming once they’ve found their way onto your computer, maintaining a few best practices can significantly lower your chances of finding yourself in a nasty situation.

Be suspicious

One of the most common ways for malware to infect your machine is through voluntary download in the guise of something else. Malware cannot infect your computer without your consent, but this does not mean that it’s always easy to spot. Some common malware programs actually pose as antivirus programs and tell you that your computer is infected in hopes that you’ll download their “remedy.” If you find yourself in a situation where you are about to download something, pause for a moment to make sure that you know exactly what it is and where it comes from.

Don’t share with strangers

Peer to Peer and torrent software and sites are veritable breeding grounds for malware. Malicious users upload malware and embed it into shared files which appear to be totally legitimate. If you are someone who uses peer to peer software, chances are that there are probably several instances of malware on your machine. As these attacks programs accumulate on your system, they can severely impact performance and efficiency.

Know your source

This goes back to #1, but it bears repeating. If you are unsure of where a file is coming from or why you are being prompted to download it, chances are good that it is malicious. Be wary of opening email attachments when you don’t know what it is or the sender is questionable. Don’t click pop-up ads, and always make sure to close them by using the “x” button at top right, instead of the “close” link that often appears inside the ad. Also be wary of “free software” offers and the like.

When in doubt, ask a pro

If you’re unsure of whether a download is legitimate or not, it is always safer and easier to give tech support a call before you download something harmful than it is after the fact.

With these four tips as a guideline, you should be able to avoid most if not all malware attacks. In the long run, good practices and caution will protect your computer much better than even the best virus scan software.