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VIRUSES, SPYWARE, RANSOMEWARE & PHISHING ATTACKS


Hackers are constantly inventing new ways to infiltrate computer networks, steal information, destroy files, and/or gain a financial or security advantage. These methods include:

  • Computer viruses are programs that install themselves on your computer without your knowledge or consent and have the capability to replicate. Most viruses also have other effects, ranging from mildly annoying to highly destructive. Viruses are typically transmitted via email or shared document or PDF files.

  • Malware (also known as spyware, adware, or parasiteware) is software that enters your computer in the course of normal web traffic. It is typically non-destructive, but can disrupt browser behavior, taking over searches and posting ads that you did not request.

  • Ransomware is malicious software that takes over your system and encrypts some or all of your files, then posts a message saying that you must pay to have them decrypted.
    Dealing with CryptoLocker ransomware

  • Phishing attacks are messages that try to look like they come from a a legitimate Smith source in the hope of convincing gullible users to provide personal information such as their network username and password.

    What to do if you responded to a phishing scam  NEW!

Your first line of defense against all these threats is to NEVER:

  • Open an email attachment you weren't expecting
  • Click a link in a message from a sender you don't recognize
  • Respond to any email requesting your username, password, or other personal information

Your second line of defense is to install software that automatically scans your system and email for viruses and malware, as described below:

Recommended software for Windows users
Recommended software for Mac users



Recommended Software for Windows Users


To protect your Windows computer from viruses and malware, Smith strongly recommends installing Microsoft Security Essentials if you do not already have Microsoft Defender. Security Essentials is free, simple to install, and easy to use.  It also uses minimal system resources and updates itself automatically.

To install Microsoft Security Essentials, follow the directions for your operating system:

WINDOWS 7 and VISTA: If you currently use a different anti-virus program and want to switch to Security Essentials, be sure to manually uninstall the other AV program first. Then:

  1. Download Security Essentials from the Microsoft download page.

  2. Once Security Essentials is installed, set your weekly scan time by double-clicking on the castle icon in the lower right corner of your screen.

  3. Click the Settings tab, then choose your preferred day and time for a weekly scan.

    Note that the scan cannot run if the computer is turned off, so we advise picking a time when it is likely to be on but not actively in use, such as your lunch hour on a weekday.

  4. Save your changes and you're done.

WINDOWS 8: Microsoft Security Essentials comes pre-installed on your computer under the name Windows Defender, so you're all set.


Note: If your Windows computer seems bogged down and is running very slowly, we recommend using the rapid-removal tools CCleaner and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware to clear parasiteware and other unwanted and unneeded programs from your system

To download CCleaner and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, visit the Smith software page.

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Recommended Software for Mac Users

If you are running OS 10.6 or higher, you already have some virus and malware protection built into your operating system. 

If you would like to take additional precautions, ClamXav is a popular free anti-virus solution for the Mac you can download here:  http://www.clamxav.com


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Copyright © 2014 Smith College Information Technology Services  |  Stoddard Hall 11  |  Northampton, MA 01063
413.585.4487  |  Questions or comments?  Send us email
 |  Last updated July 17, 2014

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