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So is my computer infected? How can I tell?
1 - Your computer is running unusually poorly or your internet connection seems to be significantly slower than normal. 2 - You get pop-ups with advertising while you are browsing the web, and sometimes even if you don't have a web browser open. 3 - Your web browser constantly redirects you to sites that look like spam or advertising, while common and legitimate search portals like Google or Bing are replaced with malicious search portals. 4 - While browsing, the browser behaves oddly, such as words on web pages suddenly turning into links for advertising. 5 - You suspect that your identity has been stolen or you notice fraudulent charges on your credit cards. 6 - Your friends report getting strange emails from you that you that you don't remember sending. 7 - Your computer becomes unusable or you can't access your programs, or your icons get replaced with junk you didn't even install.
Viruses are bits of code whose intent is to either do harm to your computer or allow the virus-writer to take over your computer or laptop. Viruses often spread through an infected machine sending out fake emails posing as the infected computer owner to everyone in their contact book. They are also spread through malicious web pages that use exploits or loopholes, in the way internet browsers handle web pages to infect visitors. A defining characteristic of a virus is that it usually requires no special action on the part of the victim to get one, the intent is malicious, the virus presents no easy method of removal, and the virus is capable of spreading by itself.
Spyware is any piece of code whose primary motive is stealing your personal information and sending it to the spyware programmer. Oftentimes, this is a function of a computer virus, and happens without the infected computer owners knowledge. Not all spyware is a virus, however. Oftentimes, a legitimate or somewhat legitimate piece of software will have spyware components that will monitor things like your browsing history and send it to a central clearinghouse to be sold to marketers. Famous examples of this type of spyware include WeatherBug and CoolWebSearch. The defining characteristic of spyware is that it records your computer activity and disguises or conceals the fact that it is doing so. By that definition, things like legitimate tracking cookies placed on your computer by places like Facebook or Google are not spyware since their function is not disguised and they clearly announce their intention to track your browsing.
A Trojan is a specific type of virus whose purpose is to make your computer more vulnerable to other attacks. Often when it is installed on a victims laptop it will create a back door", or vulnerability, in your computers defense system that allows it to download and install other malicious software. Though not always, a Trojan will often come disguised as a legitimate program and require the user to install it on his or her system. This is one of the primary differences that distinguishes a Trojan from other types of viruses.
Malware is a generic label that is applied to all types of software and code that maliciously harms a users computer. This includes viruses, Trojans, Spyware, and other programs that seek to harm your computer, Anything out of the ordinary that your computer shouldn't be doing is usually a pretty good sign that you've got an infection. When installing software read...don't just click next, According to a recent survey, only 7 percent of users read the full terms of these agreements, blindly clicking the "agree" button and installing possible bundled malware.
Do NOT click on pop-ups that say you have a virus and need to purchase antivirus software. This is a common scam, and entering your private information in the provided form will NOT fix your problem and could potentially compromise your credit or identity.