Malware, or “malicious software,” is designed to access a computer or computer system without your knowledge or consent. Malware is also defined based on what its creator intends it to do, not on any features it may contain. An anti-virus program may actually be considered malware if it can’t be uninstalled unless you agree to purchase it.
Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware and other undesirable software. Malware’s primary purpose is to steal personal information, such as account numbers, usernames and passwords, which can be used to commit fraud.
Protecting yourself against malware
You can take several steps to help reduce the risk of malware:
- Do not respond to or click on any links in pop-up advertisements asking for personal or financial information as they are likely fraudulent and often a product of spyware. Close these windows by clicking on the “X” icon in the title bar (bottom of your browser) and not on the “close” link within the window
- Do not open and install attachments or free software from unknown sources
- Avoid downloading files from file sharing and social networking sites, which can be distribution points for malware
- Install and run anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and keep them up-to-date
- Don’t download special media players