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Malware is short for malicious software and is usually used as a catch-all term to refer to any software which causes damage to a single computer, server, or computer network. Below are some of the most common types of malware.

Eight seconds... That's how fast a computer can get infected once it connects to the Internet, according to K-State IT staff.

A malicious program that usually requires some action on the part of a user in order to infect a computer; for example, opening an infected attachment or clicking on a link in a rigged email may trigger a virus to infect your computer.

Self-replicating malware that, for instance, hunts down unprotected computers and recruits them for criminal or other malicious purposes. Unlike a virus, worms do not require any action on your part in order to infect your computer.

Trojan horses
A Trojan horse, in software terms, refers to a malicious piece of software that is hidden inside an apparently useful and innocent application. Users systems generally become infected by trojan horses when they install software or a fake "patch" from an Internet download or an email attachment.

Spyware and adware are small software programs that get stored on your computer without your permission, usually when you visit a website, sign up for "free" mailings, or download "free" software. These programs Data Mine, or gather information about your computer use, web browsing, online purchasing and send it to sites that may sell it to others.

Rootkits are designed to give an attacker "root" or administrative access to a victim's computer. With root access, an attacker can perform a variety of tasks on the computer including browsing the infected computer's hard drive, making new user accounts or changing existing ones, or even using the computer's network connection for nefarious purposes.

What can happen?

The dangers of infection can vary quite a bit based on they type of malware and the intention of the attacker. An infection on your computer can lead to:

  • Theft of valuable personal information
  • Sending spam to other computer users worldwide
  • Making your computer run more slowly
  • Making your computer crash more often and take longer to start up
  • Using valuable computer memory and hard disk space
  • Altering your computer's settings from what the manufacturer intended
  • And more

While many of these dangers can render a computer or the data on it useless, there are ways to mitigate the damage, and in many cases to stop the attack before it becomes a problem at all.

What can you do?

It is essential to protect your computer on a daily basis. Most viruses are written for PCs, but some target Macs. K-Staters are required to use the university-supplied antivirus software made available to faculty, staff, and students at no charge for campus and home use. The software is available at and in the CatPack software CD.

Antivirus and anti-malware are helpful helpful software applications that scan your computer for certain patterns of infection. The patterns they scan for are the signatures, or definitions, of known forms of malware. Since bad guys are creating new forms of malware continuously, it is important that you keep your antivirus and anti-malware definitions updated.

  1. Install K-State's antivirus software.
  2. Install critical updates:
  3. Install a good spyware-prevention program, and ensure that it is kept up-to-date.
  4. Be cautious of email attachments. See email risks for details.