computer? Pop-ups? Crashes? Internet suddenly slow? Your computer's probably
infected with spyware or viruses.
Most of the
time when a computer is slow, freezes up a lot, or has a lot of pop-ups, it's
because of spyware and/or viruses. These things are dangerous, many computers
are infected, and many people don't even know they have them on their
computers. Backing up your files is something you should do on a regular basis in
case you ever experience any of these problems.
also known as adware or malware, is everywhere these days. There are several
ways your computer can become infected. Many free programs, especially file
sharing programs, install spyware on your computer or make your computer
vulnerable to spyware-infected files masquerading as songs, games, or videos.
These things can do all sorts of bad things to your computer, including making
it really slow, making it crash, making your Internet connection slow, or
making programs not work. Even worse, it can do bad things to you too. It can
install things that monitor your computer activity, steal your personal
information and use that to steal your identity, and "hijack" your
computer and use it to send out spam or viruses to other people.
strongly recommend that you use at least one anti-spyware program (preferably
more than one*) and periodically scan your computer for spyware, even if you
aren't having any problems. See our Downloads section for links to download
several free anti-spyware programs.
although you should never have more than one anti-virus program installed on
your computer at the same time, it is okay - recommended, actually - to have
more than one anti-spyware program on your computer at the same time (they
differ in how they define/identify spyware, so each one often finds things the
offers 100% protection from spyware, but the best way to reduce your chances of
getting spyware is to be suspicious of everything and always know what you're
clicking on. Most spyware cannot take hold unless you activate it in some way
by clicking on something. If you don't know what something is and exactly what
it's going to do, don't click on it. Also, if you're still using an old version
of Internet Explorer (IE), upgrade it. Old versions of IE were less secure and
more prone to threats than newer versions or other web browsers like Firefox,
Chrome, and Safari.
fake programs & warnings. There are tons of fake "spyware
removal" programs out there that actually are spyware! These fake spyware
removal programs also try to confuse people by using names that sound like real
security programs and by mimicking the screens of real programs. Don't install
any program unless you know for sure that it's legitimate.
you see a warning pop up on your screen saying that your computer is infected,
chances are that it's actually spyware or an attempt to install spyware on your
computer. If you ever see something like this, do not click on anything! Save
your work first then turn off your computer without clicking on anything. With
many of these, even if you click on what looks like the close button, your
computer will become infected. The
Learning Commons Help Desk can give you some advice on how to resolve your
viruses like the viruses that affect humans are something we need to protect
against. There are some excellent
sources on the web regarding how to protect your computer, and subsequently
your personal information, from these annoying and often destructive
How Stuff Works - information on what types of
computer there viruses are, who creates viruses and why
You can try
using Windows System Restore (Start - All Programs - Accessories - System Tools
- System Restore) to return your system to an earlier point in time, before it
became infected. You can also try scanning your computer with one or more free
anti-spyware programs - try Malwarebytes first. You may need to go into Safe
Mode before doing these things. You enter Safe Mode by pressing the F8 key when
your computer first starts booting up but before Windows starts. Turn the
computer on and keep tapping F8 until you get the boot options screen. It can
be tricky to catch it at the right moment - you may need to try more than once.
spyware infections can be so bad that even all of the available tools can't
completely clean & fix your computer. If you've tried scanning for spyware
and viruses, but still have problems or signs that your computer is infected,
you may need to take more extensive measures. The best thing to do in these
cases is to restore your computer to its original configuration using your
restore disks or restore method provided by your computer's manufacturer. If
you don't want to or can't fix it yourself, you may need to get help from a
computer repair service.
File Sharing Software
sharing programs - those used to "share" music, movies, etc. not only
configure themselves to always be running in the background, so they use up
your computer's system resources & make it slow, but they often also
install spyware on your computer or make your computer vulnerable to
spyware-infected files masquerading as songs, games, or videos. Additional information on File Sharing can be
found at Online Safety Resources for the Home.
Phishing (e-mail scams)
e-mails - scams designed to get you to reveal your personal information so they
can access your accounts and steal your identity - have become more frequent
and sophisticated. The most important thing to know about these types of
never legitimate. No legitimate organization will ever ask you for your
password, and will never send e-mail asking for personal information.
What happens when someone responds
to a phishing sca
What happens to you: Your e-mail account is
taken over. The perpetrators can then send spam & scams from your account,
forward your mail to their own account so they get a copy of everything you
get, and read/copy everything you have saved in your e-mail. There may be enough personal and financial
information for your identity to be stolen
What happens to your email account: Once
they are in your account, they use it to send spam. Spam coming from your
address can cause you to get blacklisted (blocked by outside organizations) and
your messages will not be received.
Examples of some of the scams
messages appear to come from an established business (AOL, Amazon.com, eBay,
PayPal, etc.) or financial institution (US Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank, etc.)
with whom lots of people do business. They may claim that there's a problem
with your account, that they've had computer system problems and lost your
information, or that there's been fraudulent activity on your account (which is
exactly what they intend to perform!). They ask you to click on a link in the
message to go to the company's web site and "verify" or
"update" your information. If you click the link in the e-mail
message, however, the web site it takes you to will be a fake site run by the
scammers, which they've set up to look exactly like the real site for that
company. Whatever information you enter on the fake site gets sent to the
criminals, who then use that information to get into your account(s).
end to the types of clever scams they think up. There are even scams where they
take over someone's e-mail account, and then e-mail all the person's friends
pretending to be the person. They claim to be having some kind of problem and
need money, for example that they've traveled to another country and were
robbed and need money to get home. There are many variations of these scams, so
you can't rely on any particular word, address, or other indicator to identify
them. Instead, just remember that no legitimate company or organization would
solicit your personal information in this way.
What to do when you get a phishing
message: Just delete it.
How to avoid becoming a victim of
one of these scams
This is an
area where the technology can't protect you, so you have to protect yourself.
There's no need to avoid online shopping, banking, and bill paying, just use
good common sense & caution.
Be suspicious of everything when you are
online. A little skepticism will help you avoid doing something that will cause
lots of problems later.
Remember that real banks, online merchants,
and other companies, do not send you e-mail asking for personal information.
If you receive one of these messages, do
not reply, click on the links, or call the phone numbers listed in the message.
If you think it might be from your bank or credit card company, get out your
card or statement and call the number listed there. If you think it might be
from an online company, go to their home page by typing the address yourself
(e.g., www.paypal.com) and investigate from there.
What to do if you've responded to a
change your password to something that's as complicated as you can make it -
using symbols, upper- and lower-case letters, and numbers - and is completely
unlike your previous password. (No, you can't just stick a different number to
the end of the same password. You shouldn't be doing that anyway!)
your email account provider, they can help you to assess the extent of the
problem and advise you on how to resolve the problem.