HOT TOPIC: Malware
Volume 2, Issue 2 - September 11, 2005

Malware is malicious software that takes control of your computer's operation without your approval. For the purposes of this issue, malware will refer to spyware and adware. Spyware monitors your online actions; adware displays banners or pop-up windows and often includes spyware as well. Those who create malware currently target the Windows operating system because it is used on 90-plus percent of all computers. Malware is not a virus. It is designed to exploit your computer system for commercial gain through pop-up advertisements, theft of your personal information, monitoring of your web-browsing activity for and directing your browser to advertising sites. Malware can redirect your browser to a 'false' site that looks legitimate (e.g. eBay) then takes your personal information for malicious use. Malware can also take control of your computer and turn it into a ‘Bot' which sends out spam or monitors other computers.

Some legitimate software applications also collect data or distribute advertisements without properly informing you about their activity. This includes search toolbars which some portals now offer at no charge as an add-on to your browser. This can impair your computer's performance and the performance of the network. A severe malware infection can cause a substantial loss in computer system performance (more than a 50% loss in severe situations) including crashing and freezing of your system and difficulty in connecting to the Internet or logging on to a network. These applications should be removed from your computer system using anti-spyware tools.

As we head into the new school year, please consider these twelve applications to help protect your Windows-based machines.

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©2005 Walter McKenzie

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