How do I protect my computer from malware?

Malware is malicious software that gets installed on your computer. Malware programs:

  • Gather information about your web browsing habits and pass the information on to advertisers.
  • Cause severe damage to your system, such as pop-up advertisements, viruses or worms that compromise your computer system.
  • Steal sensitive or personal information, including credit card numbers and banking information.


Adware is financially supported software (that is, paid ads). These programs display advertising banners while the program is running. They commonly contain code that tracks a user's personal information and passes it along to third parties without the user's consent or knowledge.



This type of software secretly gathers information about a person or an organization and then passes information on to interested groups. The type of information that can be gathered is browsing history, system information about your computer (including your IP address) and saved documents.


Browser Hijacking

This type of program modifies or alters your browser settings. They can:

  • Change your homepage.
  • Install search bars.
  • Create shortcuts on your desktop.
  • Cause your computer to repeatedly display pop-up ads or new browser sessions.

Again, the basic two purposes of browser hijacking software are to collect your browsing information which is then sent to a database or to generate revenue by using your computer for nefarious purposes.


How to protect my computer from malware

In most cases, you can prevent malware from affecting your computer by making sure you:

  • Keep your operating system updated with the latest available security patches.
  • Install antivirus software and keep it updated.
  • Are cautious of what files or software you download.
  • Are cautious of what plug-ins you install.
  • Install and run Spybot Search & Destroy (S&D), Malwarebytes Anti-Malware FREE or Symantec Endpoint Protection (available for free to active Wayne State University students, faculty and staff) on Windows computers and keep it updated.
  • Disable unnecessary plugins such as Java.

How to know if you have malware

You can quickly check to see if there is any malware installed on your computer by using Webroot Spy Audit for your Windows computer. It is a free web-based scanner; you can also download it and run it from your computer. After Spy Audit has finished scanning your computer, a list is displayed of what it has found, but nothing will be removed.

If Malware is found on your computer, make sure to install and run Spybot Search & Destroy (S&D)Malwarebytes Anti-Malware FREE or Symantec Endpoint Protection as mentioned above.