Avoiding Malware Infection

Millions of files are shared every day online, ranging from

 music and video files to complete software applications. File sharing networks enable millions of users to interact with a program at one time, while free software provides benefits on various levels.

File sharing also offers great risks. If your settings aren't properly configured, you could end up sharing more than your music. This could enable others to access emails, documents and other important information on your hard drive. On top of that, there may be a chance that the file you downloaded isn't an audio track but a piece of malware. Whether you're downloading a file sharing program or a freeware application, be sure to read over the End User License Agreement. This should explain what comes along with the program such as pop-up advertisements or if any of your personal information will be collected.

Use Security Software

Managing information technology 

and security software may sound like too much of a technical challenge, but it's an absolute must, especially for Windows users. In order to protect your information from the threat of malware, your computer should consist of anti-virus and anti-spyware technology.

Anti-virus: A virus is something you do not want to catch. Similar to its biological counterpart, a computer virus settles into a host and attempts to propagate and spread the infection to other machines. This type of infection has varying effects on your computer from slowing down performance, causing it to frequently crash or even completely wiping out all of your files.

Anti-virus software scans your hard drive in search of known infections. If potentially harmful items are detected, the program will list and automatically delete them. A quality program will also have the ability to detect worms, Trojans and possibly a few known spyware programs. To get the best results, your anti-virus software should receive daily updates to detect and eliminate the most recent threats. Most commercial solutions can be easily configured to download automatic updates as long as you have an internet connection.

Anti-spyware: People often label any potentially hazardous software as a virus, even spyware. Spyware is far from a virus, but can be just as dangerous. This type of program is typically installed without your authorization and could be designed with different types of functionality. Hence the name, spyware has the ability to monitor your computer activity and may even report that data to third-party sources. In a worst case scenario, it could record keystrokes and steal your personal data right as you type it into the computer.

Spyware is usually installed by downloading a rogue application that wasn't what you perceived, or even when bundled with free software you downloaded purposely. It might act only as adware and display pop-up advertisements on your screen or even hijack your browser and redirect your search attempts. In most cases, spyware latches onto precious resources and causesyour computer to run sluggishly.

Where virus scanners fail, spyware tools pick up the slack. A reliable program should be able to detect and eradicate known adware, genuine spyware, sophisticated Trojan horses and other forms of malware. Just like your anti-virus solution, this program should be updated each day to ensure that you are protected against the latest internet spies.

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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser