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Malware:  Malware (malicious software) is a generic term used to describe a variety of software, usually downloaded to your computer without your knowledge or permission. Malware is very common and is the cause of many computer problems. Some of the problems you may be noticing if you have downloaded malware are: computer slow-downs, redirected web searches, multiple window openings, pop-ups, extra tool bars, and home page hijacking.  Types of malware include viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware. The results can vary from mild irritation with additional pop-ups to severe problems like computer shut down, identity theft, and program and file destruction. Some of these programs can operate in the background and you may not even notice that you have an issue until severe problems arise.

Viruses:  Viruses are a type of malware that comes in the form of a software program developed for the purpose of harming computers. They are usually capable of reproducing themselves and can cause great harm to files or programs on your computer. They are usually written by one person whose motive is notoriety. Two common virus forms are Worms and Trojans. A Trojan is a malicious computer program disguised as something useful, such as a screensaver.  However, once installed it performs a function in the background such as allowing other users to have access to your computer or sending information from your computer to other computers. A Worm is a form of a virus that causes harm by deleting, modifying, distributing, or otherwise manipulating the data within your computer. All forms of viruses are illegal in the United States.

Spyware:  Spyware is, as it says in its name, software that is sent to spy on you and your computer. A similar program is adware. They both hide within programs, web pages, music files, or Emails. This type of program aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge, and can relay this information back to an unauthorized third party via: keystroke tracking and capture, Email logging, Instant messaging usage and snapshots, modifying applications/OS behavior. The people that write Spyware programs are doing so mostly for profit. Advertisers, research groups, hackers, and other hire them to get information about you and what your computer is doing. They also may install programs on your computer with or without your consent. These small programs can cause your computer to run slow, steal your passwords, steal your credit card information, banking information, et cetera. Currently Spyware is not illegal in the United States, but a few states do have laws concerning how information is gathered from you over the Internet. 

Spam:  Spam is unsolicited Email from persons or companies you may not know. It is the same as the “junk” mail you get from the post office. It is generally irritating and harmless, but not always. It can actually be Spyware disguised as spam.

Pharming:  Pharming is also known as Domain spoofing or DNS poisoning. A domain is the internet address of a specific website. Domain spoofing is stealing the Internet address of a website and routing it to another site, usually for identity theft purposes. There was a large Pharming attack that hit many sites in March 2005, but the target is still unclear.

Botnet:  A Botnet (Robot Network) is a network of computers that have software running on them so they can be used for various purposes. They really started showing up early in 2004. Botnets are typically made up of compromised computers that can be used without the owners’ knowledge. Typical uses of these networks are as Spam relays, Adware servers, and/or disk storage.  


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Last update October 25, 2009