Online security tips for avoiding malware

Every month hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting computer users are faced by the inconveniences, complications and data loss that can come with Trojan horses, worms and email viruses. But before you can protect yourself—and your system—against them, you must first understand what they are.

A virus is a computer program that distributes copies of itself, even without permission or knowledge of the user. The three most common types of computer viruses used today include:

Trojan horse. This is a malicious program that allows a hacker to make changes to your computer. It is generally disguised as a harmless software program and distributed as an email attachment.

Once you open the attachment, the Trojan may install itself on your computer without your knowledge or consent. It has the ability to manage files on your computer, and may even send mass emails from your infected computer to those in your address book.

Worm. This type of program replicates itself over a computer network and usually performs malicious actions, such as using up the computer’s resources and possibly shutting the system down. The name is an acronym for “write once, read many.”

E-mail virus. This type of virus can infiltrate users’ email address books and send itself, automatically, to others in your list. It may cause minor data loss or even completely destroy files and systems.

To help users avoid becoming victims of a computer virus, information is key. So keep your eyes peeled for news stories about emerging threats and make sure you know how these viruses are making their way to machines across the country and around the world.

In addition, you can follow these computer and online security tips from Webroot to create a safer computing environment at work and at home:

  • Install high-quality Internet security software.
  • Be suspicious of unexpected attachments, even from legitimate acquaintances.
  • Avoid questionable Web sites.
  • Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
  • Update your operating system regularly.
  • Increase your browser security settings.
  • Type in a trusted URL for a company’s site into the address bar of your browser to bypass links in an email or instant message.
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