Malware (or "malicious software") is a broad  term that describes intrusive software, It includes viruses and spyware that can be unintentionally installed on your computer, phone, or mobile device without your consent. Malware can cause your device to crash or worse, to steal your passwords, identity, bank account information, and can be used to monitor and control your online activity.

How to Prevent Malware on Your Phone, Computer or iPad or Other Tablet

Scam artists try to trick people into clicking on links that will download malware and spyware to their computers, especially computers that don't use adequate security software. To reduce your risk of downloading unwanted malware and spyware:

  1. Have security software and keep it updated.
    Most people think in terms of anti-virus and anti-spywareware. But you also need firewall and many packages include anti-spam, and-phishing, and browser protection and even data backup services. There are even good packages for free. See this page for recommended free security software. And set your security software, internet browser, and operating system (like Windows or Mac OS) to update automatically. See this page for how to set your systems to auto-update.
  2. Don't click on links in emails!
    Instead of clicking on a link in an email, type the URL of the site you want directly into your browser. Criminals send emails that appear to be from companies you know and trust. The links may look legitimate, but clicking on them could download malware or send you to a spoof site designed to steal your personal information. Often, you can hover over the link and your email software will show the true link.
  3. Don’t open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is.
    Opening attachments, even in emails that appear to be from friends or family,can install malware on your computer. If you receive an email with an unexpected attachment or link from someone you know, write or call them to ask if they did send it, before you open it!
  4. Download and install software only from websites you know and trust.
    Downloading free games, file-sharing programs, and customized toolbars may sound appealing, but free software can come with malware. Many security packages have features to scan downloads for viruses and malware.See this page.
  5. Minimize unauthorized downloads.
    Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads (called "drive-by downloads"). For Internet Explorer, for example, use the "medium" setting at a minimum.
  6. Use a pop-up blocker and don't click on any links within pop-ups.
    If you click on popups, you may install malware on your computer. Close pop-up windows by clicking on the "X" in the title bar. Again, most security software packages include popup blockers.
  7. Don't buy software and products that appear in spam emails and unexpected pop-up messages
    Especially watch out for ads that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware. That's a tactic scammers use to spread their malware.
  8. Talk about safe computing with your kids.
    In many families, it is the kids that infect the household's computers! Tell your kids that some online actions can put the computer at risk: clicking on pop-ups, downloading "free" games or programs, opening chain emails, or posting personal information.
  9. Create separate profiles on pcs for each family member
    If more than one person uses the same poc, create a separate profile for each person (this applies only to Windows computers).  This can limit the effects of malware to that one instance.
  10. Back up your data regularly.
    Whether it's text files or photos that are important to you, back up any data that you'd want to keep in case your computer crashes. There are online backup services as well as inexpensive standalone hard drive options.  See this page for how to automatically back up your data, files, images and other information.

What to do - how to get rid of Malware

If you suspect there is malware is on your computer, see this page.