There are a lot of “anti-” programs on the market today. It seems like we are supposed to be anti- everything when it comes to computer security. While that isn’t necessarily true, we can take some precautions and become advocates of anti-adware, anti-pop-up, anti-spyware, and anti-virus. Over the next week or so I will be reviewing some of the anti- programs, but first want to give a brief introduction to malware, which encompasses adware, spyware, and viruses that may end up on your computer.
Malware is any type of malicious software that is installed without your explicit permission. There is a catch, however. Read on…
User agreed malware installations
Have you ever installed a program that required you to agree to something you were supposed to read before installing it? Almost all programs that you install have what’s called an End User License Agreement (EULA). The EULA describes your rights as the person who bought or downloaded the software. It includes things such as how you are allowed to use or modify the program, copyright information, and penalties for breaking the copyright. When you agree that you have read and understand the EULA and install the software, your have signed a legal contract that may be used and upheld in a court of law.
Some malware programs are installed while you are installing another program. You click to agree to the EULA and the malware is installed right with the program you are trying to install. Since you agreed to the install (after completely reading the EULA, right?), you don’t have much of a case if something goes wrong on your computer or personal information is transmitted from your computer without your consent. This practice of combining malware with another program installation is not as common as it used to be, but still exists. More common are things like the Yahoo! desktop toolbar or Adobe Photoshop album being installed with another program unless you click not to install them.
My word of caution is to pay attention to what you are installing and try to keep track of where things are being installed. The next time you install a program, try selecting the “custom install” or “expert install” instead of “express install.” Most of the time, the main difference between an express install and a custom or expert install is that you can choose which parts of a program to install and where to install them. At least this way, you won’t accidentally install a toolbar that ends up cluttering your desktop or taking over your Internet browser.
Secret malware installations
Most often, malware is installed without you even knowing it. When you visit a Web site, open an unsolicited email attachment, or run an unverified program, malware may end up on your computer. If you don’t have any types of anti-malware programs on your computer, then you may never even know you have malicious software on your computer. It may become obvious, however, when your Internet browser is high jacked and continues to load pages upon pages without you even touching the keyboard. Another sign of malware are extra toolbars in your Internet browser or your starting homepage has changed without your permission. You may see extra icons on your desktop or in extreme cases, your computer may become unstable and unusable. Even though you may not see any noticeable difference in how your computer or Internet browser runs, malware may still be churning away inside your computer, transmitting personal information across the world.
Everyone is at risk for malware!
Malware includes software known as spyware and adware as well as viruses. If you have browsed the Internet anytime recently, I am sure you have seen numerous ads for anti-spyware or antivirus software. All of these programs are designed to help protect your computer against malware that may do things harmful to you and your computer. Yes, I say you and your computer. While malware won’t come out of your computer and punch you in the arm, it can very easily transmit personal information across the Internet that may lead to identity theft and years of hassle to clear your name of any wrongdoing. So, yes, malware hurts not just computer equipment, but may lead to non-physical, personal injury over the long-run.
Remember, everyone is at risk of identity and information theft. Everyone is also at risk of having some type of malware installed on your computer.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll review some programs that can be used to prevent malware installation and help fix your computer if has become infested with malware. Tomorrow, I’ll give an introduction to spyware, adware, and pop-ups and why we need to try and stop them.