Malware is a term used to describe a wide range of damaging software that can infect your computer. The effects of malware range from a temporary annoyance to computer crashes or identity theft. The best way to prevent malware is with smart online tactics. The key is staying away from anything that you do not understand or trust. There are several area’s that are the most common cause of infections.
One area is email. Any email with a link in it should be considered suspicious. If you get an email that appears to be from your bank and they want you to click on a link to verify information, don’t click the link, call the bank. It is so much easier to make a quick phone call than it is to recover from identity theft. Also, just because an email comes from a friend, you can not assume the link is safe. Make it a rule not to click on a link from an email. If you think the link is valid, just open a web browser and navigate to the web page of the vendor that is referenced in the link and navigate to the desired location from there. If the location does not exist, there is a good chance the link is malicious.
Another area that is a common cause of malware infections is pop-up windows on web pages. Often times you may get a pop-up message that uses a scare tactic of some sort. For example it may say it has found infections on your computer and you need to click a button to remove the infection. These windows should be closed using the task manager (press Ctrl-Alt-Delete) and not by clicking any buttons in the window including the x in the corner.
A third area that is a common cause of malware infections is illegal file-sharing services. There is little quality control in the world of illegal file-sharing. It is very easy for a hacker to name a malware installer with a popular song name or movie name to get a user to download the infection. Do not use these illegal file-sharing services.
Malware is rampant in todays highly connected world. The best defense is user education and cautious Internet use.