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For your safety: understanding computer terms for illegal activity, malware

Is your computer acting up?
Is your computer acting up?
Photo courtesy of debspoons/

The Federal Trade Commission says over 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud yearly. Furthermore, senior citizens who use computers are the primary targets by 56% to 80%! How do these cyber-thieves operate?

If you have access to the Internet, your private information is at high risk of being exposed to criminals who want to steal your money. They employ two types of vehicles to access it. One is they get you to (unwittingly) give it to them. The other is they get it via your computer.

One of the biggest threats to Internet users today is malware. It’s a compound-word meaning any (malevolent) computer software. It damages, disables, and disrupts the normal workings of your PC; causing it to do a variety of hostile and/or intrusive things. It also dispenses your private personal information like your user name(s), password(s), and credit card(s) information.

Coming in many forms (such as active content, codes, scripts, and others), malware has several different categories. Some include Trojan, Rootkit, spyware, scareware, viruses, and worms.

Malware also has a variety of file types such as PDF, HTML, JavaScript, and batch file. Additionally, it’s available in various shapes and sizes, like executables assembled by different compilers. Furthermore, it can be packed, compressed, and/or encrypted.

Malware infects systems in numerous ways. According to the Nashville Computer Guru, ‘It has the ability to hijack your web browser, redirect your search engine attempts, bombard your screen with pop-up advertisements and even monitor your activity.” It’s also poorly scripted, causing many computers to become horribly slow and unstable.

Malware provides thieves a secret, “back-door” access to your private information. Moreover, it’s doubly insidious because you may have it on your computer and not even know it. It’s imperative to find it and eradicate it quickly because some forms can make your computer completely inoperable.

Depending on its type, eliminating malware can be as easy as changing your password. It also can be extremely difficult, requiring professional help. Between these two extremes are untold numbers of programs that find and detect infections. Some available for purchase are reasonably prices while others are free. .

Remember, the best watchwords for keeping you and your computer safe are “detect, protect, and remove.” Future installments address specific types of malware and how to protect against them. For now, a good firewall and anti-virus program are vital.

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