RANGER RESTART: Updates, resources, and FAQs

Malware and Viruses

What is a computer virus? 
A computer virus is a program designed to spread itself by infecting files or drives and then making copies of itself on the same computer as well as on other computers on the network. Viruses usually operate without the knowledge or desire of the computer user. Viruses are software programs; the actual effect of any particular virus depends on how it was programmed by the person who wrote the virus. Some viruses are deliberately designed to damage files or otherwise interfere with your computer's operation, while others do not do anything but try to spread themselves causing damaged files and other problems.

What is malware? 
Malware is an umbrella term for multiple kinds of software including spyware, viruses, and adware. The general rule is that if a program installs itself without user knowledge and/or consent, it is considered malware. The exact purpose of any piece of malware is dependent on what type of malware it is. Spyware gathers data and reports it back to somewhere. Adware displays unsolicited ads and other undesired marketing. Viruses have a whole host of sub-classes that are determined by how they infect a computer and what they do once they have done so. 

What do I do if I get an infection?
If you have not used a quality up-to-date antivirus program on your computer, be sure to install one. Some problems blamed on viruses are actually caused by software configuration errors or other problems that have nothing to do with a virus. If you do get infected by a virus, follow the directions in your antivirus program for cleaning it. If you have backup copies of the infected files, use those to restore the files. Check the files you restore to make sure your backups were not infected. For assistance, check the web site and support services for your antivirus software. Visit the CTS help desk for assistance.

What are some general tips on avoiding virus infections?
Install antivirus software from a well-known, reputable company, update, and use it regularly. New viruses come out every single day; an antivirus program that has not been updated for several months will not provide much protection against current viruses. Watch out for executable files unexpectedly received as attachments to E-mail. If you feel you must open the file first save the attachment and then check it with an up-to-date virus scanner before opening the file. If your E-mail has the ability to automatically execute JavaScript, Word macros, or other executable code contained in or attached to a message, it is strongly recommended that you disable this feature. Perform regular backups. Some viruses will erase or corrupt files on your hard drive, and a recent backup may be the only way to recover your data. Ideally, you should back up your entire system on a regular basis. If this is not practical, at least back up files that you cannot afford to lose or that would be difficult to replace: documents, address books, important E-mail, etc. Be careful about browsing unfamiliar Web sites. Cybercriminals increasingly hack Web pages to serve malware. Simply browsing to an infected Web site may infect your computer.

What is UW-Parkside doing to help?
UW-Parkside provides malware protection for faculty and staff PCs. Additionally firewalls and other network tools help filter many unwanted connections that lead to the spread of malware. However, no tool will fully protect a system. In the end it is up to the user to help prevent computer infections. The helpdesk staff will also provide advice on security tools that can be installed on student and employee home computers.

Examples of antimalware software
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