Computer Virus and Malware Information
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"Malware" is short for "malicious software". This is a generic term for software designed to disrupt operations, gather information without permission or knowledge, gain unauthorized access to system resources, and potentially other abusive or damaging behavior. Malware includes viruses, spyware, and other types of harmful software.
- Virus: A computer program that can replicate itself and spread from computer to computer.
- Spyware: A program installed on computers that collects information about users without their informed consent.
- Provide hackers access to your computer
- Monitor your computer activity, web habits, and even your keystrokes and transmit this information without your knowledge
- Lead to identity theft
- Delete files, format disks, or affect your computer's general performance
- Make your computer act in unexpected ways, such as exhibiting strange sounds and images or slow startup and performance
Per UCSC policy, all laptop and desktop Windows and Mac computers connected to UCSC's network must run current, up-to-date software to detect viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Windows servers must run current, up-to-date anti-malware software. Anti-malware software is recommended for other devices where readily available and as appropriate.
- Install anti-malware software on your computer and set it to auto-update as frequently as the settings will allow.
- Mobile devices can be just as susceptible to viruses as desktop and laptop computers. Use anti-virus/anti-malware software, if it is available for your device.
- Periodically double-check to see if your anti-virus/anti-malware software is up to date by opening the program and checking the "Last updated" date.
- See below for free anti-malware software for UCSC faculty, staff and students.
As a general rule, always be wary about opening files or clicking on "mystery links" sent to you via to email, text, instant message (IM), social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, ads and pop-ups. Links, files and attachments may contain or lead to harmful programs that can damage your system, files and the network.
- Delete spam and suspicious emails without opening or activating any attached files or links; don't open, forward or reply to the email. You should be suspicious if:
- An attachment or link in an email message is unexpected or unsolicited
- The email is not addressed to you by name
- You don't recognize the sender or the email says it is from a "friend"
- You can't determine why the file or link was sent to you
- The file name of the attachment ends with EXE, HLP, LNK, MDB, MDE, URL or VBE
- Do not send, forward or open electronic greeting cards, animations, games, joke programs, chain letters, screen savers, songs, videos or images. In addition, they can needlessly consume system resources.
- Ensure that all current patches/updates are installed for your computer's operating system and applications.
- Do not download or install unknown software or software from an unknown source. Even if it is "free", you may get more than you realized (e.g., spyware, adware, etc).
- Back up your important data and mobile devices to separate media, such as a CD/DVD, an online back up service, flash drive, or a server. Store backups in a safe place.
- Sophos Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware is available at no cost to all faculty and staff
- Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition is a free anti-malware program for non-University-owned Macs
- Microsoft Security Essentials is a free anti-malware program for PCs running Windows
- Ad-Aware anti-spyware is available for free for use on non-University-owned Windows PCs
ITS has implemented an email filtering system that identifies and cleans many viruses and bad attachments out of email messages so as to help prevent infections, break-ins, and theft or damage of data via malicious email messages. However, no filtering system can catch everything. Follow the guidance above, and always be cautious when opening attachments or clicking on links.
Rev. May 2012