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Viruses, Malware, and Spyware Oh My!

Is your computer protected?

Viruses, malware, spyware and other types of malicious programs have caused serious problems for computer users. Spyware and adware are commonly referred to as "malware." This information is intended to promote understanding of the different types of malicious software users may encounter, discuss some preventative measures, and provide information about ways to detect and remove these programs. If you have ever been a victim of a virus or malware infection, you understand how important it is to protect your computer from these unwelcome culprits. Using preventative measures and safer browsing habits can reduce your computer’s vulnerability to malicious software.

What is a computer virus?

  • Viruses are programs that install themselves on a computer for the purpose of: damaging files, installing other malware, obtaining critical information, copying itself to other computers, and allowing malicious users the ability of controlling the computer remotely.

How to protect against computer viruses

  • Install and update Symantec Endpoint Protection Updated anti-virus software is a powerful tool in the fight against viruses and malware. Be sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software. ASU installs Symantec Endpoint Protection on all university computers on both Windows and Mac, and also provides this free to all faculty, staff, and students to install on your personal computers. This can be downloaded at http://www.astate.edu/a/its/software-downloads/.
  • Perform virus scans and software updates regularly Scans and updates are scheduled to run automatically on ASU computers.
  • To setup a scheduled scan on your personal computer:
  • Click Start; go to All Programs, Click Symantec Endpoint Protection.
    • Click on Scan for Threats, Create a New Scan, select the type of scan to run.
    • Schedule a daily virus scan.

What are malware, spyware, and adware?

  • Malware is software that hurts your computing experience, such as viruses and worms.
  • Adware programs are installed on your computer for the purpose of displaying advertisements in separate pop-up windows.
  • Spyware programs use your machine resources and Internet connection to relay information about your Web browsing habits to others.

Symptoms of Malware/Spyware/Adware 

Your computer may be infected with malware if you experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Unexpected installation of new browser objects such as toolbars or icons
  • New unknown desktop icons or program menu objects
  • Change of and/or inability to change browser homepage
  • Pop-ups continue to appear after Internet browser is closed
  • Surfing/navigating with browser is chronically slow
  • Computer is unusually slow/unresponsive even with no programs open
  • Internet browser crashes often
  • Internet browser ceases to function or “locks” up

Causes/Prevention Tips

Malware is usually installed on your computer without your knowledge. These programs are often embedded in Web sites and are installed when your browser loads the page. They are also bundled and installed with many freeware programs. The cheapest and most effective way of preventing malware is to follow these safe “surfing” guidelines:

  • Never click pop-ups (even clicking “No” or “Cancel” is bad) - Many Web sites disguise their pop-ups to look like normal Windows dialog boxes. For example, clicking on a pop-up that states “Your computer is not running at optimal speed, click Yes to enhance its performance,” will direct you to another Web site, and it is likely that malware will be installed on your computer. To close a suspect window, click the “X” in the upper right corner of the window. The pop-up can also be closed by right-clicking on its icon in the taskbar at the bottom of your screen and selecting “Close.”
  • Never download files unless you fully understand what is included and know and trust the sender – Some Web sites will insist that you download necessary files before you can view them. Use extreme caution when downloading these files, especially if the publisher is unknown. Also, be wary of e-mails from unknown senders, and never click on a link or download an attachment from someone you don’t know.
  • Increase your browser security – This can be done by selecting Tools, Internet Options in Internet Explorer. On the Security tab, make sure the security level is at least Medium or higher. Please note that changing the security level may affect the ability to access some ASU systems. Therefore, we recommend writing down your existing security settings before making any changes so you can change them back if you experience problems.
  • Read the EULA (End User Licence Agreement) – When you download any program from the Internet, be sure to read the EULA before you accept it. Many times the EULA will tell you that adware will be installed on your computer. Malware may be bundled with these types of “free” software to help recoup development costs.

Malware software…Make sure you have malware software installed and up to date, and you are doing scans at least once a week. ITS has an enterprise version of Malwarebytes for university owned Windows computers.

If this is not installed please contact the help desk at 870.972.3933 or itshelpdesk@astate.edu.

Security Tip of the Day!


Phishing is when an attacker attempts to fool you into clicking on a malicious link or opening an attachment in an email. Be suspicious of any email or online message that creates a sense of urgency, has bad spelling or addresses you with a generic greeting such as "Dear Customer."

CLICK HERE to see more SANS Security Awareness Tips!