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Protect Your Computer

If you suspect your computer security is compromised, please call the Help Desk at ext. 4357 (HELP).

Malware/Spyware

Malware includes spyware, adware and browser hijackers. Spyware and Adware are marketing driven . They are often a way for "free" software authors to make money. If you download "free" software it may come bundled with tracking software (spyware) that keeps track of your keystrokes and reports the data back to advertisers. There are also products that display advertising popups (adware) based on data collected.

Since this software is continuously "calling home" using your internet connection, it can significantly slow down the performance of your computer. Browser hijackers can redirect your Internet start page or change the default search service you have set. These files can automatically install when you visit a web site or may ask for permission in a confusing way that can trick you into consenting.

Viruses and Worms

Computer viruses implant instructions in other programs or storage devices and can attack, scramble, or erase computer data. The danger of computer viruses lies in their ability to replicate themselves and spread from system to system. No computer is immune to infection.

Worms are similar to viruses, but they exist independently; they do not attach themselves to other files or programs. Their spread is not directly under human control.

High-Risk Behavior

The following activities are among the most common ways of getting computer viruses. Minimizing the frequency of these activities will reduce your risk of getting a computer virus:

  • Downloading executable software from public-access bulletin boards or web sites
  • Opening e-mail attachments from people you don't know or without first scanning them for viruses
  • Opening any e-mail attachment on a computer without knowing exactly what the attachment is, or if it is safe/unsafe

Symptoms of an Infection

If your computer begins to act strangely, or if it stops being able to do things it has always done in the past, it may be infected with a virus. Symptoms such as longer-than-normal program load times, unpredictable program behavior, inexplicable changes in file sizes, inability to boot, strange graphics appearing on your screen, or unusual sounds may indicate that a virus is on your system. However, it is important to distinguish between virus symptoms and those that come from corrupted system files, which can look very similar. Rule out more standard causes before suspecting a virus.

Protecting your Computer

Be very careful about what you download to your computer. Read popup windows carefully before clicking yes or no. Often the popups are written in such a way that clicking "no" will actually allow the software to be loaded on your machine. You should avoid downloading any coupon programs, file sharing programs and additional search bars if you want to avoid popups and keep your computer running smoothly.

Install virus detection software and keep the virus definitions up to date. Antivirus programs perform two general functions: scanning for and removing viruses, and monitoring the operation of your computer for virus-like activity (either known actions of specific viruses or general suspicious activity).

All HWS computers have antivirus software installed. If you would like to download a security product for your personally owned Windows computer, IT Services recommends that you install the latest version of Windows Security Essentials software, available for free at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security-essentials-download, and that you update your virus definitions daily and scan your computer weekly.

Keep your operating system current with the latest patches and updates. The writers of viruses and worms often exploit bugs and security holes in operating systems and other computer software. Software manufacturers frequently release patches for such holes.

Back up your files.

Check your backup files with virus scanning software before using them. If you back up a file that is already infected with a virus, you can re-infect your system by restoring files from the backup copies.


Some information supplied courtesy of Baylor University and Indiana University.