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Antivirus Software

Antivirus software detects and responds to various types of malware (malicious software), including viruses, worms and other programs designed to damage or disrupt a computer.

  • Malware (malicious software): This is a general term used to describe any program designed to cause harm.  Some common types of malware include viruses, worms and trojans.
  • Virus: A malicious program that attaches itself to and “infects” other software applications and files, disrupting computer operations. Viruses often carry a “payload,” which is an executable script designed to damage, delete or steal information from a computer. A virus is a self-replicating program, meaning it copies itself. Typically, a virus only infects a computer and begins replicating when the user executes the program or opens an infected file.
  • Worm: A worm is similar to a virus but with an additional dangerous element. Like a virus, a worm can make copies of itself, but it does not require a person to send it along to other computers. A worm spreads rapidly across a network without having to attach itself to another program. Since worms are so quick and pervasive through a network, they quickly absorb resources and can bring not just one computer down, but thousands, potentially shutting down an entire network.
  • Trojan: A malicious program disguised or hidden within another program that appears to be safe. When a trojan is executed, it allows attackers to gain unauthorized access to the computer in order to steal information and cause harm. Trojans commonly spread through email attachments and Internet downloads.

About Antivirus Software

Antivirus software typically works in two ways:

  • Removes Known Malware: Antivirus software examines your computer looking for known viruses using a library of definitions and cures to remove threats. Antivirus software will automatically update its library to stay current as new threats and protections emerge.
  • Prevents New Malware: Antivirus software looks for suspicious computer processing behavior to prevent threats that are either new variants of existing threats or brand new threats altogether. Antivirus software prevents suspicious code from executing and blocks access to infected files.

Where do I get Antivirus software protection?

Antivirus software can be purchased at any store that sells computer software or online at Antivirus software websites.

How long does Antivirus software last?

Most Antivirus vendors sell a perpetual license that requires annual renewal in order to continue receiving updates that protect against the latest threats. The annual renewal fee is often less than the initial purchase of the Antivirus software.

How do I update my Antivirus software?

Antivirus software automatically updates itself with the latest threat and cure definitions and often repairs damaged content automatically if it encounters malware.

Anti-Spyware Software

Spyware is a type of program that monitors a user’s computer activity, collects information about a user without his knowledge, and then provides that information to a third party.

Spyware can be benign (like collecting information in order to show the user a targeted advertisement) or malicious (like collecting information in order to commit fraud).

The most dangerous spyware is usually combined with a trojan or other malware and spread by criminals trying to obtain passwords, user IDs, account numbers and other sensitive data in order to commit fraud.

Most spyware finds its way onto computers via the Internet. Web downloads and JavaScript files are popular ways to transmit spyware as they can be embedded in other programs and are self-executable, meaning they execute without any assistance from the user.

About Anti-Spyware Software

Anti-Spyware software typically works in two ways:

  • Prevents Spyware: Anti-Spyware software prevents spyware programs from collecting information on your computer and providing it to unknown parties.
  • Detects and Removes Spyware:Anti-Spyware software detects and removes spyware from your computer using a library of spyware file definitions and cures.

Where do I get Anti-Spyware software protection?

Antivirus software can be purchased at any store that sells computer software or online at Anti-Spyware software websites.

Is spyware more dangerous than malware (viruses, worms, trojans)?

Spyware collects data and shares it with outside parties without your knowledge. It becomes more dangerous when combined with malware and spread by cyber criminals. That’s why it’s important to have both Antivirus and Anti-Spyware protection.

Can I combine Antivirus and Anti-Spyware software?

Most Antivirus software vendors offer protection from spyware within their products or as a separate purchase. Be sure to verify that Anti-Spyware protection is included, or purchase a separate Anti-Spyware software package.

Firewall Protection

Firewalls are systems that help prevent unauthorized access to and from computers. They help protect against attacks across any network – the Internet, your home network, and even wireless networks, like at the airport, library or work.

Software Firewalls are popular for individual home use. In fact, operating systems, like Microsoft Windows and Mac, often come with built-in software firewalls. If not already “built in” to a computer, software firewalls can be loaded onto any user’s computer.

Hardware Firewalls provide a strong degree of protection and are often used by businesses or users with networked computers. These physical devices require a power source and connect directly to a network.

Where do I get a firewall?

Microsoft Windows and Mac operating systems and even Antivirus software programs often include firewalls. Firewalls can also be purchased at a store that sells computer software.

How do I know if I already have a firewall?

Operating systems often come with built-in software firewalls:

  • Microsoft Windows users can verify if the firewall is turned on by accessing the Control Panel > Windows Firewall.
  • Mac users can verify if the firewall is turned on by accessing System Preferences > Sharing > Firewall.

Do I need to maintain or update my firewall once it’s installed?

Check your system to ensure that the firewall is not only installed but also turned on.

What will happen if I don’t have a firewall?

Without a firewall, your system may be vulnerable to unauthorized access and attack.

Do I need a software firewall or a hardware firewall?

Most individual home users are suited to use a software firewall, typically the one that is included with their computer operating system. Hardware firewalls are typically suited for businesses and networked computers.

Software Updates

Software Updates are necessary when companies identify application errors or weaknesses in their software or system that require stronger security protections.

Software Updates come in the form of software “patches” that replace defective sections of software code with corrected code. All software manufacturers issue patches either on a regular schedule or as defects are discovered. Malware such as viruses, worms and trojans can infiltrate a computer through a software application that has not been patched.

Automatic Updates are included in most operating systems and software programs. These features periodically and automatically update the user’s computer.

  • Microsoft Windows calls this feature “Auto Update.”
  • Mac calls this feature “Software Update.”
  • Other software programs may display pop-up notices within a program notifying you to install the latest software patches.

How do I keep my software programs updated?

Some software programs, including Microsoft Windows and Mac operating systems, provide automatic software updates. Keep these automatic updates turned on so that your computer is protected routinely.

How do I check my computer operating system’s automatic update settings?

  • Microsoft Windows users can check the “Auto Update” settings by accessing the Control Panel > Automatic Updates.
  • Mac users can check the “Software Update” settings by accessing System Preferences > Software Update.

How do I manually patch one of my software programs?

Most software programs have automatic update and patching features. The program “Help” menu may also include a feature allowing you to manually “Check for Updates.”