Texas Tech University

What is Malware?

Malware, short for “malicious software,” refers to software designed to gather sensitive information, monitor your web browsing or keyboard activity, gain access to a private system, or cause damage or disrupt a computer, server or network.

It can be spread through emails, websites, and even apps. Most systems are inadvertently infected by opening an infected email attachment or by clicking on a link contained in an email message. The malicious software will either install immediately or at a designated time after it has been downloaded. You will not be aware that the program is installing on your system and this is what makes it so important that you think before you click!

Examples of Malware

  • A virus is one of the most common types of malware. They are capable of replicating and spreading to other computers by attaching to messages or programs when a recipient opens the message or launches the program
  • A Trojan Horse is a malicious file that criminals use to install harmful applications on your computer. By luring you into clicking or downloading the file, they cleverly infect your computer system. In some cases the malicious application makes your system and data available to criminals all over the world, without your knowledge
  • Keyloggers covertly record your keystrokes as you type in your various applications, and allow criminals to collect your usernames and passwords
  • Adware is malware disguised as advertising or used to generate revenue by an advertiser. Many scam artists use pop-up ads on websites to attract victims
  • Ransomware is a form of malware that limits you from accessing your files and information until the “ransom” is paid to remove the restrictions. Frequently access is not restored even after the “ransom” is paid

How to Prevent from Getting Infected

To protect yourself against malware, install anti-virus and other anti-malware software on all your systems and devices. Also, configure your system to automatically install updates and security patches. Awareness and knowledge of malware tactics will help you prevent your system from becoming infected.

Warning Signs

Here are some signs that your system might be infected with malware:

  • Significantly slower-than-normal operating system response time
  • Warning messages or dialogue boxes that suddenly appear in an application
  • Slower than normal application response time
  • Sudden changes in the look of application windows – an additional search bar in your browser – your browser home page changes – a new icon appears in the lower right task tray

Protect Your Computer