Oregon State University

Malware

What is computer malware?

A computer virus or malware are a commonly used terms to describe all types of malicious software including Trojans, worms, adware, and spyware. Each have slightly different functions, but usually either try and damage the software on your computer, or send information about your computer usage to an outside source over the internet. The details of each type are explained below:

Adware or advertising-supported software is any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertisements to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used. Adware is usually seen by the developer as a way to recover development costs, and in some cases it may allow the software to be provided to the user free of charge or at a reduced price. As a result, the advertisements may be seen by the user as interruptions, annoyances or as distractions from the task at hand.

CryptoLocker is malicious software that encrypts your data files with a unique key that only the malicious people/hackers have access to. The nefarious individuals then hold your data for ransom and try to extort money from you. Your data files are encrypted Encryption can not be broken at this point in time without the key. When your data is encrypted and the key is lost, the data is essentially lost forever.

The Flashback virus targets a security hole in the Java software installed on your Mac computer. Java is included with OSX, the operating system on your Mac. The virus is designed to steal personal information in the background without the user noticing, so once your computer is infected, you may not see any difference in the way it runs.

Spyware is computer software that is unknowingly installed on a personal computer to collect information about a user, their computer or browsing habits without the user's informed consent. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, such as Internet surfing habits and sites that have been visited, but can also interfere with user control of the computer in other ways, such as installing additional software and redirecting Web browser activity. Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of Internet or functionality of other programs.

A Trojan, as the name suggests, pretends to be something good, like virus scanning software or other useful applications. In reality they run malicious programs in the background that can perform any number of functions, like allowing an outside user to copy your files, see your browsing history, or even take remote control of your computer.

A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program. It uses a network to send copies of itself to other computers on the network, and it may do so without any user intervention. Unlike a virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms almost always cause at least some harm to the network, if only by consuming bandwidth, whereas viruses almost always corrupt or devour files on a targeted computer.

How can my computer become infected?

Unfortunately, there are many ways your computer can become infected. Some of the main causes to an infected computer included: illegally downloading music and movies, clicking on ads, browsing to compromised websites, and in general not being cautious when it comes to web browsing. Be sure to follow the safe browsing habits and remember, it's always better to be safe then to be sorry.

What are the symptoms of a virus?

  • Speed decrease
  • Unexplained freezing/crashing
  • Programs that won’t launch
  • New programs won’t install
  • Computer has trouble booting windows
  • Internet access is blocked
  • Screen saver and other visual settings are changed unexpectedly
  • Unable to open files or folders
  • Files or folders are deleted unexpectedly
  • False pop-ups that appear warning you about viruses
  • Unable to print documents
  • Your hard disk runs out of free space rapidly

How can I protect myself?

  • For a personally owned computer, use an antivirus located here.
  • If your computer is university owned, please talk to your computer support group for assistance.
  • Have an anti-malware program such as Malwarebytes or SUPERAntiSpyware.
  • Keep your computer's operating system up to date.
  • NEVER use file sharing programs to download games, music, movies, TV shows, etc.
  • NEVER click advertisements on the Internet.
  • NEVER respond to SPAM.
  • READ all warnings very carefully.
  • EDUCATE yourself, your friends and family.

Need help?

Contact the Service Desk at 541-737-8787

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