Malware: what is it and how to protect yourself

Malware, virus, and ransomware … oh, my!

Many times you hear these words but may often wonder what they mean exactly. Tech Lab is here to provide you further information and to explain ways to protect yourself.


Malware is the overall term. It further breaks down into virus, spyware, ransomware, Trojans, and rootkits. Malware means malicious software. Malware can spy on you and learn your interests. It then uses the data it collects to sell you something or scare you into buying something. This happens even when you are browsing a shopping website and do not make a purchase but the item you viewed shows up in an advertisement somewhere else while browsing on the internet. There are two main types of malware. The first is ransomware which locks down everything on your hard drive and demands money from you to get your data back. The second is adware which loads websites with advertising from a hacker. When these ads are clicked, the hacker makes money from the ad agency.

Viruses on the other hand are invasive to a computer and are typically executable files. The file first needs to be opened or ran in order to start the infection.

How malware spreads?

Malware can spread by downloading malicious programs, visiting suspicious sites or sites that mimic real sites, or opening links in emails. Outdated software or browsers can also aid the spread of malware. Sometimes dangerous code is disguised and injected into ordinarily safe websites or the code is changed as it spreads so it cannot be easily tracked or blocked.

How to protect yourself?

  1. Run scans using a well known malware and antivirus software. 
  2. Make sure your programs are up to date including Windows updates. These files can be critical to the safety and security of your computer.
  3. Go slowly through downloaded setup wizards so you don’t install extra items that you don’t want. Watch for extraneous check boxes and UN-check them. Some of this extra software can spy on you and slow down your computer.
  4. Do not open every email or attachment. Files that end in .exe and .zip can contain viruses and should be avoided if you are not expecting to receive it.

If you think you have been infected with malware or a virus and would like some assistance cleaning up your computer, please call (414) 208-4682. We will schedule an appointment with a technician to get your machine back in top working condition.