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Mar 2015

Whats the difference between malware and viruses

We are often asked what the differences are between malware and viruses and why an anti-virus cannot stop everything. This week I’d like to try to help out a little.

Malware (malicious software) is the big umbrella term. It covers viruses, worms, trojans, adware, spyware etc. Malware can be unwittingly downloaded from infected bogus email attachments, USB sticks, pirated material and hijacked websites.
There are 2 major categories of malware: hidden and visible.

Hidden Malware.
This is malware that is predominately installed without the user’s knowledge. Its intention is to cause damage or for financial gain:

Virus -
this may corrupt or delete data on your computer or even delete everything on your hard disk. Viruses spread when the software or document they are attached to is transferred from one computer to another.

Worm - a malicious computer program that is able to copy itself incredibly quickly from machine to machine, usually by exploiting a security hole in a piece of software or the operating system.

Trojan - like the mythical Trojan horse, they are often disguised as a piece of software that looks innocent. Trojans are one of the most common methods a criminal will use to infect your computer and collect personal information.

Visible Malware (Grayware)
Grayware refers to applications or files that are non-malicious, but can still adversely affect the performance of a computer:

Spyware - installs components on a computer for the purpose of recording internet surfing habits. Spyware sends this information to its author or to other interested parties when the computer is online.

Adware - displays advertising banners on web browsers, which many computer users consider invasive. Adware programs often create annoying pop-up ads and a loss of network connection or system performance.

PUPS (Potentially Unwanted Program) – software that uses high amounts of system resources and is a common cause of spam e-mails and slow systems.

The reason your anti-virus won't stop all types of malware is because the release rate of malware is so high. New malware is released on a daily basis and the anti-virus companies just cannot keep up. We advise that you protect your computer as best you can by:

  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest operating system updates and patches.

  • Installing anti-virus software and downloading updates.

  • Ensuring that Adobe Flashplayer is up-to-date. Use their official website (never use a pop-up which informs you that you need to update it): https://get2.adobe.com/flashplayer/

  • THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK. The best way to prevent a malware infection is YOU. Avoid downloading and installing anything you do not understand or trust.


Hopefully that clears things up a bit!

Are you genuine?

Following on from our laptop buying guide of a couple of weeks ago, this week I’d like to bring to light a worrying trend. We have seen an increase in the number of second-hand computers being brought in which not only have faults but also have non-genuine operating systems installed. Often these are very old laptops but which have a more recent version of Windows (usually Windows 7 Ultimate) illegally installed on them.
This isn’t about protecting Microsoft’s millions but simply that these older laptops weren’t built to run Windows 7 or 8 since manufacturers often don’t make the software drivers available for newer versions of Windows.
The laptops we’ve seen recently were all very underpowered XP machines with a mere 1 Gigabyte of RAM and were purchased through places such as Facebook selling pages, Gumtree, boot fayres and disreputable computer shops. You might think that buying a laptop for under £100 is a good idea in these austere times, but do check what you are buying and make sure that it comes with the right version of Windows installed
So how do you know that you’ve got the correct version of Windows installed? Firstly, you need to check that the laptop has a Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity (COA). This is a label, usually located on the body of the computer (or for some newer laptops, inside the battery compartment), which is used to identify genuine Microsoft software. The version of Windows printed on the COA should match the version of Windows installed. If the COA doesn’t match or is missing, the chances are that the operating system is not genuine.
Most Windows 8 computers will have a Windows 8 anti-tamper label on the body of the computer, however the code for installing Windows 8 is often locked away inside the main board of the laptop so it can’t be stolen.
For more assistance, try Microsoft’s website:
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/howtotell
The general rule to remember is that
if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. People who sell dodgy laptops often advertise them at just below the normal prices to make you think you're simply getting a good deal. We always advise that you check before you buy and ensure you are buying from a reputable company. If you believe you have been a victim of this practice, talk to Trading Standards and Microsoft.