Tuesday, January 8, 2008

QuickTips on Combating Malware

Malware Comes to Social Media and Search Portals

Nobody ever said that malware makers weren't creative. For their latest trick, they're using banner ads on high-traffic sites like MySpace and Excite to entice people into installing adware, spyware, and so-called "scareware" -- software that, in the words of Washington Post blogger Brian Krebs, "reports false or exaggerated system security threats on the user's computer, mainly in an attempt to get them to buy even more worthless software to clean up the supposed security problems."


People who unwittingly click on malicious MySpace banner ads will get bombarded with adware, spyware, and Trojan horse programs that are difficult to detect and sometimes almost impossible to remove. Meanwhile, a security researcher found a banner ad on Excite.com that redirects to a page that attempts to install the scareware program "PerformanceOptimizer."


Installing regular security updates to Explorer and popular plug-ins like QuickTime and Flash can help mitigate these problems. Of course, that requires you to be vigilant about downloading and installing security updates, which may or may not have been thoroughly tested by software makers before they were released. (Sometimes in the race to plug security holes, software providers inadvertently cause bigger problems than the ones they fix.)


Proactive maintenance offer a great alternative to the "do it yourself" approach. These services take the burden of security updates off the individual user. Every security patch is tested before it's installed, and regular sweeps for adware and spyware make sure they're removed promptly.

       No matter what protections you have in place, it's generally best not to click on anything that blinks, flashes, or gives you scary warnings that "Your computer may be infected with harmful spyware programs!!!" But if you happen to accidentally download one of these nasties, it's nice to know that the experts have your back.

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