Viruses are a major threat to personal computer security.
Malware (short for malicious software) is software intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. Malware is an umbrella term for malicious code, and there are many different types of malware. Regardless of the type, malware is dangerous software that threatens information security.
Types of Malware:
- A virus is probably the oldest and more common type of malware. In most cases a virus, just like a medical virus that infects a living thing, is introduced to a device and will cause harm.
- Adware is as it sounds, software that presents unwanted advertisement data.
- A trojan is similar to the ancient Greek “Trojan Horse” meaning malicious software that is disguised as something seemingly legitimate or trusted.
- Ransomware is code that takes control of data, or the entire device, requesting a payment or ransom to regain access to the data or device.
- A backdoor is code that allows for normally unauthorized access to an application or device.
How are viruses transmitted?
Primarily through phishing emails. Phishing emails deliver or provide access to systems that contain malware. As you know, phishing can request that you access a site to provide information. Simply visiting a malicious site can be enough to infect your machine.
Other phishing emails contain attachments that, when opened, attempt to introduce small bits of malicious code onto the computer. The code could be a virus in itself or a “downloader” meaning it is just enough code to reach out and load other malicious code from the Internet onto the device once operational.
Things to look for in a malware infection.
- Unusually sluggish performance
- Crashes (software or operating system)
- Unfamiliar software or popups
- Receiving email bounce backs (also a sign of a compromised email account)
- Unexpected changes to software/browsers/other settings
How can I prevent an infection?
Antivirus software is the best way to protect your device against malware. UA machines should all have McAfee antivirus software installed, and we offer a downloadable version for personal machines on the OIT software catalog. Malwarebytes is also used in OIT, and for departments outside of OIT, to provide an additional layer of protection for those with administrative access to systems and information.
Virus Prevention Tips
- Install anti-virus software, and keep it up-to-date.
- Disable third-party cookies.
- Enable prompting for software installation.
- Use a pop-up blocker and phishing filter in your web browser.
- Don’t open email attachments from sources you do not trust.
- Never install an application from a website unless you fully trust it.
If you need a refresher on phishing, visit our phishing info page to see the red flags of phishing. Want to beef up your security vocab? UA faculty and staff can partake in the UALMS course, Building Your Cybersecurity Vocabulary or the course Malware Explained.
If you are an IT administrator at UA, you are licensed to use McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO). Contact the IT Service Desk for more information.