Malware Tips

How to Avoid Malware

Malware is short for malicious software. It is software that has been designed to infiltrate or damage a computer without your consent. Malware is the generic term that has come to include: computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, scareware, scamware and more. It can be present on websites and can be contracted from emails, or hidden in downloadable files, photos, videos, freeware or shareware.
The best way to avoid getting infected is to have a good anti-virus protection program running. You should also do periodic scans for spyware, avoid clicking on suspicious attachments, email links or websites. Be careful – these malware developers are talented and specialize in their ‘wares’ being sneaky. Malware can be cleverly disguised as an email from a friend, or a useful website. A post on a social site that seems too good to be true is another method. As careful a web-surfer and internet user as you may be, most technology users will likely pick up multiple malware infections a year. If you do happen to get an infection, there are plenty of free tools available to help you attempt to remove it. We list several at the bottom of the article.
There are many ways malware can infect your computer. But with some simple tips you can easily avoid even the nastiest of viruses. These tips apply to both Mac and Windows machines.
Here are the most common ways malware infects your computer:
Outdated Anti-Virus and Unpatched Operating Systems – Every day criminals are finding new ways to exploit your computer, operating system, and installed applications.
Keep up to date with the latest operating system updates and patches
Keep up to date with the last anti-virus definitions and patches
Keep up to date with the last application updates and patches
If the manufacturer is releasing updates or patches to fix a problem, you can assume that criminals are actively trying to exploit computers that have not yet been updated/patched.
Drive-by Downloads – When you visit a website a script on the site secretly runs and installs malware
Avoid suspicious websites
Make sure your anti-virus, operating system, and web browser is up-to-date
Website Ads – Many ads are designed to persuade the user to click on the ad or to click on a Close button in the ad. When the user clicks on the ad or Close button, a “drive-by” download is initiated and malware is installed.
Do not click on advertisements or Close buttons. Instead, close the window through the( x) in the upper right corner of the window
Website Popup Alerts – Web Popup alerts falsely tell the user that their machine is infected with a virus or has some other problem that needs to be fixed. The user will click on the alert and either be asked to install the software (really malware in disguise) that is purported to fix the problem or a “drive-by” download will be initiated.
Do not click or engage with the popup window. In the example to the right (click image for larger version), do not click on the “Pause” or “Stop” buttons.
Close the window by either closing the browser completely or through the (x) in the upper right corner of the window
Free Games, Applications, and Screen Savers – Many free applications and games are simply vehicles designed to install malware. Even if the application itself is functional, malware may still be installed on your computer.
Only download applications from trusted websites such as,, and
Media Players – A popular source of malware is a website media player download. When a user wants to play a video, the website will ask to install a video codec or other required software. When the user installs the application, the malware is also installed and the video may or may not play.
No matter how enticing the video, only install media player software from trusted websites such as,, and,,
Pornographic Websites – Many pornographic websites contain malware that is either installed though drive-by downloads or media player installations.
No matter how enticing the video, only install media player software from trusted websites such as,, and,,
Do not download or install any files or applications from the website
Make sure your anti-virus and operating system are up to date with security patches
Email attachments – One of the oldest ways to spread malware is through email attachments
Do not open attachments from people you do not know
If a friend sends you an attachment that looks suspicious contact them first before opening the attachment
Never open emails that end in .exe, .bat, .com, .vbs
Phishing Emails – Phishing emails will try to convince users into clicking on a link within the email. The link will take the user to a website that will either try to make the user manually install malware or will perform a “drive-by” download to install the malware.
Never click on links in an email
Find out how to protect yourself from Phishing Emails
Peer – to – Peer (P2P) / file sharing programs and websites – Many of the P2P software such as Kazaa, Bearshare, and iMesh contain malware that will be installed when you install the P2P software. In addition, malware has often been disguised as legitimate music and video files for download.
Do not download or upload copyrighted material; this is illegal and against the NU Acceptable Use Policy.
Do not allow P2P uploading to your computer
Run any downloaded file through a virus scan before opening
Only install P2P software that has been verified malware free
Here are some common infection types and a general definition:
Virus: Malware programs that can reproduce itself and infect other computers.
Spyware: It surreptitiously monitors and collects information about you, your computer and/or your browsing habits without your consent — usually for advertising purposes. It can also gather info from your address book, and even your passwords and credit card numbers. Unlike viruses and worms, spyware does not usually self-replicate.
Scareware: You’re surfing the net and suddenly an official-looking screen pops up warning you there is a problem on your computer, such as: “Your computer may be infected with harmful spyware programs. Immediate removal is required. To scan, click ‘Yes'”. You’re not sure if it’s real or not, so what do you do? Be careful, this might be scareware. If there’s any doubt, you can close your browser immediately.


The following software runs continuously in the background, helping to protect your computer from infection:
Provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.
A free antivirus software with anti-spyware, anti-rootkit and strong self-protection included,. Free for home users.
Anti-Virus software that automatically protects computers from viruses by providing timely virus database updates and protection.
The following software scans your system for malware, destroying any infections it may find. Install and run these routinely (At least once a week.)
A highly regarded and effective program that identifies and removes malware and scareware from your computer.
Scans your RAM, Registry, hard drives and external storage devices for known data mining, advertising and tracking components. Ad-Aware can easily rid your system of these tracking components, allowing you to maintain a higher degree of privacy while you surf the web.
If the above tools don’t resolve the problem, or you need a safe area to find the links – you should contact us for remote support or on-site service.

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