Play It Safe » Anti-Malware + Firewall + Secure Wireless

Why You Should Care:

Because malware (spyware, adware, viruses, worms, etc.) is everywhere, a hacker could make your life miserable, data could be destroyed, your identity could be compromised, and you could lose your network privileges.

What You Can Do:

  • Know thy enemy
    Malware ("malicious software") is an umbrella term for a variety of threats to your device's well-being, and includes: spyware, bogus anti-virus apps, rogueware, viruses, scareware, trojan horses, and worms. Malware can lurk in email or on websites and once encountered, may replicate, attach itself to other programs or files, and/or perform unwanted and unauthorized tasks. Many types are created to intentionally damage files or your entire hard drive, whereas others may cause minor annoyances. Unfortunately, even seemingly innocuous malware could trigger unexpected side effects and system crashes, plus the presence of malware may not be easily detected and could spread through the sharing of files, flash drives, and email. In addition to updating your computer's operating system, it is important to protect your computer with an anti-malware program. Brown provides comprehensive anti-malware protection, free of charge, for all its students.
  • Don't get own3d! - thwart the spies
    If your computer slows down to a crawl, it might not be an infection but spyware instead. Spyware can hog system resources as it busily tracks your computer activity: gathering information about the web sites that you visit, logging your keystrokes, capturing your passwords, and more. Your computer might be "own3d" (compromised) and now part of a "botnet" (i.e., a network of zombie machines used to pirate illegal software, pornography, etc.).

    How do you get "own3d"? Spyware could be downloaded when you click on one of those ubiquitous pop-up ads, or when installing other software. Some software license agreements will indicate that installing a product also grants permission to install adware or tracking software on your computer, so understand what you're agreeing to before you click OK.

    Windows users can install Spybot Search & Destroy, free software that lets you scan your computer for spyware and immunize it against potential spyware attacks. Mac users can find products on the Apple site, such as the spyware removal tool MacScan.

  • Enable your personal firewall
    As Microsoft's "Windows Firewall from start to finish" explains, "A firewall is software or hardware that helps prevent hackers and some types of malware from getting to your PC through a network or the Internet. It does this by checking the info that’s coming from the Internet or a network and then either blocking it or allowing it to pass through to your PC. A firewall isn't the same thing as an antivirus or anti-malware app. Firewalls help protect against worms and hackers, antivirus apps help protect against viruses, and anti-malware apps help protect against malware. You need all three."
    » More about firewalls for: Windows 7, Windows 8, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) & OS X Mavericks (10.9)