Computer Virus and Malware Information

What is Malware?

"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.

Why should you care about malware? Because computer viruses and other malware can:

  • 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, lock you out of your computer, or affect your computer's general performance
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What should you do?


Per UCSC policy, all laptop and desktop 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.
  • 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.
  • If you get an antivirus alert that there is malware on your computer, contact the ITS Support Center for assistance (contact info below)
  • See below for free anti-malware software for UCSC faculty, staff and students.


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/texts without opening or activating any attached files or links. Don't open, forward or reply to the message. You should be suspicious if:
    • A link or attachment is unexpected or unsolicited
    • The email is not addressed to you by name
    • You don't recognize the sender or the message 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
  • Don't click on ads or pop-ups offering anti-virus software or warning you that your computer is infected. These are scams and can infect your computer or cause other harm.
  • Make sure your computer and applications are patched and up-to-date.
  • Don't 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, and store the backups in a safe place.

Free software for UCSC faculty, staff and students:

Email filtering:

UCSC's email benefits from Google's anti-malware filtering, which identifies and removes many harmful email messages. However, no filtering system can catch everything. Follow the guidance above, and always be cautious when opening attachments or clicking on links. For more information on how to deal with phishing messages see Avoiding Phishing Emails.


Contact the ITS Support Center if you would like your computer configured to meet these requirements or if you need assistance with an antivirus alert. If you have questions, contact the Support Center or your ITS Divisional Liaison

Warning signs your computer may be infected

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