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Malware vs. Viruses

Malware and viruses are attempting to infect computers and mobile devices at a rapidly increasing rate. The methods used by attackers are becoming more sophisticated and diverse, leading to more things to avoid and watch out for on the web. Education and awareness of this issue is key to protecting both your computer and your files.

what is malware?

The word malware stands for malicious software, and the term can refer to any piece of software or program that performs unwanted actions on a computer system. A virus can also be malware, but other variants include: Trojan horses, worms, or spyware.

what is a virus?

A virus is really just a piece of code loaded on a computer without the user’s knowledge. A virus is capable of copying itself, and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data – or worse, both. Even simple viruses can be dangerous as they can replicate themselves and quickly use all available memory, bringing the system to a screeching halt. An even more dangerous type of virus can be capable of transmitting itself across networks and bypassing security systems to infect other machines.

How do you know if you have malware or a virus?

Here are a few signs that your computer might have a virus or malware:

1.       Pop up ads
2.       Slow performance
3.       Slow Startup
4.       Random Crashes
5.       Missing files
6.       Unusual error messages

If you suspect that you have a virus or malware, please seek assistance from ITS immediately.

Many viruses and other types of malware dig their hooks deep into your system, making them very difficult to remove. For that reason, ITS recommends that you contact the Service Desk as soon as possible if you believe your computer may been infected with malware.

If ITS assistance is not readily available, or you are waiting for an appointment, here are some steps you can take on your own:

1.    Back up all important work and files immediately.

2.    Run an antivirus scan.  HLS installs Microsoft System Center Endpoint Protection on all Law School computer. You can open this application and scan your computer at any time.

If you suspect that your personal home computer has been infected with malware, you can take the following steps:

1.       Anti-Virus programs for your home computer are readily available (Norton™, McAfee™, Kapersky™, Avast™ are a few, but not all, options)

2.       You can also run an Anti-Malware scan, such as SuperAntiSpyware™ or MalwareBytes™. These scanners work differently than Anti-Virus programs, and can help clean non-virus infections.

3.       Booting into Safe Mode can help. In Safe Mode, Windows won’t load third-party software (including the virus), so you’ll be able to run your antivirus program without the virus interfering in the background. To boot into Safe Mode, restart your computer, press the F8 key while the computer is booting up, select the Safe Mode option in the boot options menu, and press the Enter key. Run the antivirus program in Safe Mode and restart after you’re done cleaning up. (If you don’t see the boot options menu, restart your computer and try again – you may not have pressed the F8 key at the correct time.) If you need Internet access in Safe Mode, select Safe Mode with Networking in the boot options menu instead.

4.       The final option, if nothing can remove the viruses properly – or if the malware so damaged your system that Windows still isn’t working properly after you’ve removed the viruses – is reverting your computer to its factory state. Many computers come with restore partitions that you can access by pressing a certain key during the boot process (consult your computer’s manual for the exact key). You may also have a Windows installer disc you can use to reinstall Windows. Note that this will delete the files and programs on your computer, so be sure your important data is backed up before you reinstall Windows from scratch.

Once your machine is clean, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of you getting another virus or malware infection:

a.  Install an antivirus program, and keep it up to date.
b. Keep your computer updated.
c.    Use a firewall.‌ Windows Firewall (or any other firewall) can help alert you to suspicious activity if a virus or worm attempts to connect to your computer.
d.    Don’t open email attachments unless you’re expecting them.
e.    Don’t click pop up ads or strange messages online

And always feel free to ask your friendly local ITS staff if you have any questions!