Malware or “malicious software” is any software used by cyber-crooks to access someone else’s computer system—without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware are all examples of this invasive software. Malware can be used to steal personal information, send spam, and commit fraud. Malware can be aggressive and sophisticated and is quickly growing in popularity. These programs can be used to obtain confidential information about the user of the infected computer, such as account numbers and PINs, login credentials, the contents of e-mail, even Internet habits, and the resulting data can easily be sold or used directly to perpetrate fraud.
Malware for personal smartphones and other mobile devices has now entered the market as well. Once the malware gains entry into the computer or mobile device, it probes the data protection systems for an area of weakness. From there, the intrusive program uses a combination of aggressive tactics to disrupt system operations and gather sensitive information.
- Know and recognize the signs of phishing emails. Do not open attachments from unsolicited e-mails at work or at home. This is the most common way computers become infected with malware.
- Never download any file or attachment unless you are absolutely certain what it is and who provided it.
- Be cautious when downloading programs, such as free games, from websites, can result in the installation of malware to your computer.
- Install protective firewall, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software on your computer and update regularly. Install updates and patches for your home computer’s operating system.
- Do not allow anyone to access your computer without your knowledge. Keep your computer turned off or locked when you’re not using it.
- Protect your passwords and login information. Never use the “save ID and password” option. Never write your user ID and/or password on a piece of paper and leave it near your computer.