What is malware?
Malware is a general term for any kind of process or software that you don't want running on your computer or social media accounts. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, rootkits, backdoors, spyware, adware, and fraudulent dialers all fall under the category of malware.
Malware can affect you in many ways. Sometimes, malware attempts to take money from you by asking for a payment in order to update your security software. Malware might also create links on pages that serve as ads for other companies. In other cases, malware may be more discrete and steal your private information without your knowing. Malware can do many other nasty things, and makes your life more difficult.
How do I prevent malware?
Preventing malware is not much different from staying safe on campus: stay out of danger zones, and have a backup plan if you do encounter a dangerous situation.
Avoid the uncertain and unknown
Many web browsers have built-in blacklists of websites that are potentially dangerous to your computer. If your web browser stops you from entering a website due to security reasons, it's best that you heed its advice.
It's really easy to just select "OK" whenever a pop-up window appears. Malware creators often take advantage of this behavior to easily get malware in your computer. If you aren't certain what will happen when you select "OK", then you are better off closing the window. Please note that some websites may try to trick you with a pop-up saying your computer needs a scan or software needs to be updated. Don't give those pop-ups the benefit of the doubt; scan your computer using your own malware protection software and update your computer through its native applications.
Occasionally, you may get a message from a friend about a deal or interesting video with a link. Sometimes, those messages were not actually sent by your friend, but rather by an application that has taken control of their account. A simple way to confirm that your friend actually sent you the message is simply to reply to it and wait for a response. Most malware that send dangerous links aren't sophisticated enough to emulate your friend responding to a message. Doing so may be a hassle, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Have malware protection software as backup
Even the excellent students at U of I can sometimes get outsmarted by malware creators and end up with malware on their computer. In these situations, malware protection software is here to help. Malware protection software can detect and stop malware attempting to install itself on your computer, as well as search and destroy malware that is already in your computer.
U of I provides free malware protection software to all UIUC students, faculty, and staff. Malware protection software from McAfee is available for both Windows and OS X through the U of I WebStore. Before installing the software, first uninstall all other malware protection software (including virus scanners, spyware/adware removal, etc.) from your computer, since multiple malware protection applications running simultaneously can severely hinder your computer's functionality. If you need assistance with installing McAfee, submit a help request.
I think I have malware on my computer!
If you need any assistance with malware, submit a help request.
More information about malware is available on the Technology Services website.