The curse of the internet is the proliferation of malware. This problem really is quite serious, and viruses, Trojans and other nasty things rob people of their money and identities on a daily basis. Billions of dollars are siphoned out of people's lives yearly. You need to know how to protect yourself. Your computer support people can help, but the more you know, the better prepared you'll be.
Malware- What it is, and what it does
Malware is the generic term for invasive, harmful software of any kind. This includes viruses, worms, Trojans, and even some kinds of adware, used to track people online. It's quite possible to simply hit a website and be infected by 5 Trojans in less than a second. Viruses and other kinds of malware also tend to spread. They can reproduce themselves and attach to emails, infecting other computers.
Malware works by taking control of computer systems and ordering them to provide information or even to send spam to other computers. It's estimated that several million computers around the world are "zombie" computers, under the control of an external source. These computers are largely responsible for the tides of spam which afflict the world's computer users. The computer owners usually don't even know they're infected.
Malware can be found in the most unlikely places, even in online pictures. However, there are some generic types of site which are "usual suspects":
Porn sites- These are notorious for malware, and there are few exceptions. Celebrity pictures and sites- The sites are often targeted because they attract a lot of traffic. At one point Jennifer Aniston was the most highly targeted person in the world for infected pictures. Sports sites- Particularly American sports sites, and particularly baseball, football and basketball and anything to do with cheerleaders. Again, the targeting is based on very high user numbers.
Getting protection for yourself
There are a lot of anti virus programs, some good, some not so good. The well known anti virus programs like Vipre Antivirus come with real time protection, and are pretty reliable. Sadly, some of the better known brands aren't particularly good. It's a good idea to shop around for your antivirus software, read the reviews from the major computer sites and make comparisons.
Note: Do not download anything at all until you're sure it's bona fide. There have been cases of malware masquerading as antivirus software.
A proven antivirus software package Real time protection Regular updates to your package Clear statement of fees
In some cases you can get free versions of antivirus packages and upgrade to paid versions if you like them, like Vipre Antivirus.
If you think you've got a problem
The best option if your computer is acting weird is to take immediate action:
Unplug the internet connection. This disconnects the malware from the outside world. Call your computer repairs technician, and get some advice. Most computer techs can run a scan and help you get rid of the problem.
Malware is scary, but it's not invincible. Stay alert, get protection and you'll be able to handle it.