Viruses Aren’t the Problem Anymore

In the early days of computers there were some malicious people with too much time on their hands. They decided it would be a fun to create computer viruses. Viruses were often times destructive in nature. Since then, a lot of things have changed. There are a lot more different kinds of infections that can attack a computer these days. Although many people still use the term “virus” as a generic term for computer infections, the correct term is Malware which stands for Malicious Software.

The most common types of malware we see these days are SpyWare, and ScareWare. SpyWare is software that tries to collect information about you or your accounts in order to steal your identity, steal money from your accounts, or to use your email to send spam. ScareWare is fake security software that tells you your computer is infected with a bunch of infections and wants you to pay for their product to remove these supposed infections. The thing is, it’s all fake. It’s not real security software. It tells you that your computer has all of these infections that it doesn’t have. Just to get your credit card number.

Viruses are still around, but they are few and far between. The big differences between the old viruses and the newer SpyWare and ScareWare are that SpyWare and ScareWare aren’t destructive to the files on your computer. Spyware wants to sit on your computer undetected and collect information, so it doesn’t want to do anything that might tip you off that it’s there. ScareWare might keep you from using the computer because it keeps popping up and preventing programs from running, but it doesn’t destroy files on your computer. It just wants your credit card number.

There is another type of infection that is more common these days that does take your data hostage and tells you that you have to pay a fee to get your data back. It doesn’t destroy data, it encrypts it so you can’t access it. But again, they just want your credit card number.

ScareWare is by far the most common infection we see these days. The reason viruses are uncommon these days and spyware and ScareWare are more common is money. Spyware and especially ScareWare make money. It’s big business now. And because of that, a lot of people, even companies, are getting into the ScareWare business. Some of these fake security programs even have customer support who actually answer the phone if you call.

You may be wondering how these infections get on your computer. Almost all infections these days come from infected websites. Some are attachments in email, but most email that is trying to infect  your computer simply have a link to an infected website in them. They try to get you to click on that link so your computer can be infected.

If a website ever tells you that your computer is infected, don’t believe it. Don’t click on anything in the window that tells you it’s infected. Even clicking a cancel button can install an infection. If you know how to use Task Manager to kill your browser, do that. If you don’t know how to do that, just restart your computer.

Also, we don’t recommend clicking on links in email unless you are sure it’s safe. Same goes for email attachments. Don’t open them unless you are sure.

To help protect your computer from infected websites, we recommend that you install a free utility called Web of Trust (WOT). This is a browser add-on that puts a colored circle next to each website you get back from  your search engine. A green circle means the website is considered safe. Yellow means caution. Red means you should avoid that website. WOT isn’t perfect. Some websites are classified as Red and shouldn’t be and vice-versa. But overall, it’s a great tool and one that everyone should use.

To install WOT, go to www.mywot.com. If you have more than one browser, you will need to install WOT for each browser you use. In addition, if you have more than one Windows user on your PC, each person will have to install it for each browser they use.

Earlier we said don’t click on any links in email and then we gave  you a link where you can download WOT. Obviously, we know you can trust us, but here’s a good test you can do. Hold your mouse pointer over that link without moving  your mouse. You should get a little pop-up that tells you where that link really goes. If that doesn’t match what it says in the email, you know something is wrong and you shouldn’t click on it. In this case, however, it’s the same.

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