Malware (Malicious Software) is a general term that refers to any software designed
to harm or gain unwanted access to your computer. There are many different types
of malware; however the four most popular types are Spyware, Adware, Rootkits
Spyware is a type of malicious software which collects information without the user’s
knowledge. Many users will not know they have spyware, and it can be difficult to
detect. Spyware can monitor many aspects of a computer, such as your browsing habits,
keystrokes and even mouse movements in some cases.
Adware is often times confused with spyware, however there are differences. Adware
refers to any type of advertising supported software which automatically displays
or downloads advertisements to a computer. These advertisements are often in the
form of pop-up ads. The goal of adware is to generate revenue for an advertising
company; or its author. Adware itself is harmless (just annoying) but often adware
is bundled with spyware or keyloggers to track a user’s browsing history so
that the pop-up ads will be more relavent to the user.
A rootkit is a piece of software that enables access into a computer without the
user’s knowledge. This is one example of why keeping your operating system
updated is important. If Windows releases a patch for a vulnerability in the operating
system but the user ignores the update, an attacker might use that vulnerability
to gain access to the computer. Once access is gained the attacker will install
a rootkit. Once a rootkit is installed on the host computer, it elevates the privileges
of the attacker so they are able to do anything to your computer without your knowledge.
Once a rootkit is installed it provides a “backdoor” for the attacker
to keep re-gaining access to your computer, even if you patch the initial vulnerability
that was used to exploit your computer. Rootkits can be difficult to remove.
Trojans, or a Trojan Horse, is software that appears to be performing a legitimate
function but it is really stealing information or harming the host computer. For
example an anti-virus program called “Antivirus XP” might pop-up and
say that your computer is infected and you need to purchase the full version to
clean your computer, but in reality “Antivirus XP” is the infection
in your computer and the author wants you to enter your information so they can
steal your money. If someone mistakenly enters credit card information into a Trojan
Horse program, it is best to put a hold on the card and get a new credit card. Trojans
can be extremely difficult to remove and we advise that you have a PC Professional
remove a Trojan as you can do more harm to your computer by removing it incorrectly.
To remove malware infections we recommend the two following free programs (you can
click on the name for the link to the website):
MalwareByte’s Anti-Malware Free
Spybot Search &