About Malware

Malware programs are malicious applications that install themselves onto your computer while you are browsing the Web or downloading software. Once on your computer, malware can access your files, collect personal information, monitor the websites you visit, and transfer the collected data over the Internet. A malware infection often results in slower computer performance, frequent computer crashes, and difficulty accessing the Internet.

The best way to protect your computer from malware is to prevent it from being installed. You should only download and install programs from reputable vendors.

Common Malware Sources

Malware may be placed on your computer if you follow a link to a malicious site or by clicking a video or game from a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter. Shareware programs and peer-to-peer (P2P) network programs may also include malware add-ons. ITS advises users against downloading P2P network programs, as these programs may access other files on your system and transfer them over the P2P network. In these circumstances, users may be implicated in copyright infringement without their knowledge. For additional information about P2P networks, see the annual Copyright Compliance Letter that is sent to USC students.

A typical malware installer, which often mimics antivirus programs, looks like this:

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Image from the SANS Institute Internet Storm Center.

You should always close out of any similar window that pops up, unless you know that the software is from a reliable vendor. Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista automatically block most of these installers.

Removing Malware

If you have malware on your computer (most people do), there are ways to remove it. However, the malware removal process can lead to network and software malfunctions and can prevent Windows from starting up. Due to the complexity of the process involved, ITS cannot provide support for malware removal.

Getting Help

For other questions, please contact the ITS Customer Support Center.