Computer Viruses, Malware & Scams
What is a virus or malware?
A virus is program, or piece of malicious code, that is loaded onto your computer without your knowledge and runs without any action from you. Viruses often replicate themselves and are capable of spreading typically through e-mail, but there are other ways such as through social media and certain websites.
A common misconception with viruses is that they will be sent from someone you do not know. In reality most viruses send themselves from an infected user’s e-mail address book without the user’s knowledge. Since address books usually contain addresses that are most frequently used, then it is most likely that viruses will be spread among friends, family, or business acquaintances.
As technology has become more advanced, there are viruses that can be spread through website media, such as images, video, etc. These viruses are commonly disguised as advertisements for Anti-Virus software, claiming that it has detected threats on your computer and offers to perform a free scan. Variations of this type of virus are “Anti-Virus 2019”, “Security Tool”, or “Malware Warning”. Some claim to be from Microsoft, alerting you to viruses on your computer (even though there are none) and asks you to call them so they can remove the viruses for you. This is a scam to try and get money and other personal information from you, they are NOT trying to help you.
There are other variations of this claiming it is from the FBI, etc. This type of virus typically comes in the form of a pop-up window that won’t go away, and clicking anywhere on it (even the “X” to close the window) will trigger the virus to run. If you see a pop-up window similar to this description, DO NOT click on it, shut down your computer, and seek advice from a computer repair professional.
What if my computer is infected with a virus/malware?
Disconnect the affected computer from the Internet ASAP. This will keep the virus from “calling home” or spreading from your computer to others via email until the virus can be removed.
Virus removal can sometimes be a bit tricky. Most anti-virus software has virus removal capabilities. Instructions on removing viruses can also be found at the McAfee and Norton websites. If you are not comfortable with the virus removal procedure you should contact your local computer repair shop.
Virus/Malware prevention and removal
The best way to prevent viruses is to use Anti-Virus software. It is not enough to just have anti-virus software installed, you must also keep the virus definitions up-to-date and scan your machine on a regular basis. Also, practicing safe browsing will help protect you against viruses and other malicious software. If your anti-virus software is warning you that a website is potentially unsafe, steer clear of it until you can verify that it is a safe site.