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Malware and Antivirus

What is Malware?

Malware, or malicious software, is a blanket term referring to several threats to your device, including spyware, viruses, Trojans, worms, and false apps. Your device can pick these up almost anywhere; emails, download sites, torrents, just about anything can have them. Once on your system, they can damage your files, ruin hard drives, bog device down with ads, or send information back that you would really prefer to keep private. The worst part? They can be incredibly hard to find.

Antivirus software serves as another blanket term for programs that fend off malware. While, technically, many of these could be classified as “Anti-adware” or “Anti-spyware”, they are often an all-in-one solution to protecting your computer from the threat of malware as a whole.

Avoiding Malware

Malware can infect your device from a variety of methods, and each one is tricky for different reasons. These tips can help you prevent your system from getting infected.

1.   Avoid suspicious or random links on websites. If a page suddenly tells you to download or update something that you aren’t familiar with, it may be trying to convince you to download adware or something more dangerous.

2.   Do not enter passwords or personal information on suspicious pages. If a site asks for information that seems out of place, or someone emails you asking for your password, do not share that info until you know it is safe to do so.

3.   Always make sure you know the sender before opening attachments or following links on an email. If you don’t know who sent it, or it doesn’t seem like something they would send you, there’s a solid chance it’s spam or an attempt at stealing your information.

4.   Keep your firewall or ad blocker on. Avoiding intrusive advertisements and hackers is a major factor in keeping things you don’t want off of your device.

5.   Keep things updated! Security fixes are added into updates for almost any software you’ll ever use, and can play a major part in whether or not you risk infection by using them. Fortunately, Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe all have ways of keeping things up to date as convenient and painless as possible.

What to look for

Malware comes in such a wide variety of forms, and scams can come from just about any means of communication, so how do you identify them? To give you an idea of what to watch for, here are some trends that appear in malware and scams.

1.   “Your computer is infected!”

If a website or popup gives this message immediately upon arrival, then links you to a download for an antivirus, it’s generally a good indicator that the actual virus is what they’re trying to make you download. Fake antivirus programs are frequently used to install other malware. For a list of trusted antivirus programs, see the Malware and Internet Safety page.

2.   Tabs that are extremely difficult to close

This is often tied with fake antivirus programs. When trying to close the tab, a site may ask you if you are certain you want to close the page and risk infection.

3.   Overabundance of popups

If you are seeing popups or ads on pages that have never had them before, typically it’s a sign that an addon has been added into your internet browser. Going to chrome://settings or the Addon window on Firefox and removing them, then running an antivirus may remove the issue.

4.   Odd password requests

No official message will ever ask for your Southeast password, be it through email, phone call, or in person. No pages that aren’t directly tied to Southeast or your classes should ever request your password either. That aside, any site that requests personal information that seems unnecessary or suspicious should be avoided. If you are uncertain as to why Southeast staff may require some personal information from you, feel free to ask.

Removing Malware

Sometimes, it just happens. Maybe you clicked a link, maybe someone else was borrowing your laptop and installed their new game and it came with some new tagalong program while installing, and now you’ve got popups and things are running unusually slow. Fortunately, there is a variety of ways to get rid of malware.

1.   Uninstall it. Deleting and removing the program is always a great first step to getting rid of your malware problem, though there are extra steps you definitely want to take afterwards.

2.   Run an antivirus program. There are several great programs that search your system and delete any malware that they find. Windows includes Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 and 8. Beyond those, there are programs like Malwarebytes and ADWCleaner, which are both free to use. Programs such as CCleaner may also be useful for maintenance to keep things running in tip top shape afterward.

3.   Find out where it came from and get rid of that too! If you find that the file came from a certain website or someone emailed you a virus, it’s a good time to cut ties with the threat, or let your friend know their email may have been hijacked.

Antivirus and Maintenance Programs

All university-owned computers will come with McAfee pre-installed, and should not have extra antivirus programs run as having several of them at once hinders the computer’s performance. For personal computers, you may consider using the software below.

Some of this software will either require a Windows license or may include a premium version which uses a license. Southeast does not provide these licenses. The Microsoft Security Essentials package comes free with any installation of Windows 7 or 8, and all of the other software includes a free version.

If you would like instructions on how to use the software below, click here.

Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials

Common Updates

Microsoft Update
Microsoft Update
Apple Update
Adobe Update


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