ResNet has been seeing an excessive number of computers infected with unwanted, malicious software. Malicious software is generally referred to as malware, and includes viruses, trojans, worms, and spyware.

    Unwanted software can be installed on your computer without you even knowing it, either from visiting a web site that secretly installs the software on your computer (a process referred to as a "drive-by download") or by you downloading and installing software from the Internet that includes malware hidden in the software installer. Free or pirated software are the most common sources of malware.

    If you click on a link to an unknown web site or download questionable software from the Internet, that web site could be installing:

    • Malware - malicious software that could cripple your computer's performance, violate your personal privacy, or allow your computer to be used to hack into other computers.
    • Viruses - programs designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere with your computer use. Viruses can infect your computer simply by you opening e-mail attachments or visiting infectious websites via "drive-by downloads."
    • Trojans - malware frequently disguised as freeware you would otherwise pay for, including peer-to-peer file sharing of music, videos, and pirated software. Trojans do not self-replicate.
    • Worms - self-replicating program that can infect your computer just by being connected to the Internet without current software patches.
    • Adware - software that displays annoying pop-up advertisements on your computer.
    • Spyware - software that records what web sites you visit and keystrokes you type on your computer (including passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information).
    • Scareware - software that attempts to provoke the perception of a threat, such as fake antivirus software claiming to find infected files on your computer. The software is also typically malware or a form of ransomware.
    • Ransomware - Software that hijacks your personal data and holds it hostage until you pay a ransom. If you enter your credit card information, it will probably be used to charge more th an just the ransom.
    • Pornware - software that displays offensive pop-up advertisements and messages on your computer.

    How do you protect your computer?

    • Make sure that your computer has up-to-date virus protection software installed.
    • Install all of the security patches required for your computer's operating system (the best thing to do is configure your computer to automatically update itself - instructions are included in the ResNet FAQ).
    • Install any updates available for your web browser (Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer) as soon as they are available.
    • Do not download or install suspicious software.
      • Do not install or use peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs on your computer. If you have such software on your computer, you should uninstall it immediately.
      • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software programs include Frostwire, KaZaa, FastTrack, WinMX, Ares, BitTorrent, eDonkey, and others like them. These software packages are loaded with advertising, frequently include malware, give others access to the contents of your hard drive, and violate Saint Mary's Acceptable Computer Use Policy.
      • Downloading and installing free music, games, screensavers, or other software from the Internet is another common way that adware/spyware can be installed on your computer without your knowledge. Please be careful and only use software from reputable companies, download media (music, videos, books) from reputable sources (iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders are examples).
    • Read software licensing agreements carefully before accepting them to make sure that you are not agreeing to have adware/spyware installed on your computer while you install legitimate software.
    • Don't click on advertising links/graphics on websites - including sites you may otherwise trust such as news outlets and Facebook.
    • Do not haphazardly click on links if you don't know where they go to. This includes links created with URL shorteners such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com.
    • Install the McAfee virus protection software that Saint Mary's College provides free of charge to all students, faculty, and staff for their personally-owned computers. Information and installation instructions are available at http://www.saintmarys.edu/virus.
    • Use a program such as Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware (free version and a $25 version) to regularly scan your computer for adware/spyware. The paid version also offers additional protection.


To scan for and remove malware from your computer, please refer to the other ResNet FAQs regarding McAfee virus protection software (McAfee VirusScan for Windows, McAfee Security for Mac) and Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware.


Last Modified January 14, 2011