What is Malware and How to Protect Yourself from It

What is Malware and How to Protect Yourself from It

Malware is a harmful computer program that is transmitted through the internet, email, or standard software installation. It is designed to take over infected computer systems and execute unauthorized tasks, including displaying unwanted advertisements, accessing unwanted websites, tracking online activity, and more.

The most common type of malware is called "spyware." Spyware can monitor nearly any activity or information on an infected computer. This includes temporary system data as well as files on the hard drive. Email addresses are commonly targeted information, as they can be extracted from an infected computer and used in spam mailing lists.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from viruses and spyware:

  • Keep a clean machine. Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against malware and other online threats.
  • Protect all devices that connect to the internet. Install trusted antivirus tools and keep them up to date.
  • Plug and scan. USB devices and other external devices can be infected by malware, so always use your security software to scan them.
  • Configure your browser and email settings. Blocking active content like ActiveX, Java, scripting, and pop-ups greatly reduces the risks of infection through an embedded script, web bugs, and other HTML-based techniques.
  • Be mindful of what you download. Hackers often use social engineering to trick people into installing malware, so exercise caution when downloading anything from public websites or newsgroups.
  • Pay attention when installing applications. During the installation, make sure to read the instructions and look out for default options prompting your computer to install additional software.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Links in emails, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often used to compromise your computer. Regardless of whether you know the source, if it looks suspicious, delete the message, or mark it as junk mail.

Ask an IT technician if you have any additional questions about malware and protecting your devices from it. If you have any security questions about your SFB account, please call 888-254-0615 or stop in an SFB office nearest you.