ADWARE?  MALWARE?  SPYWARE?  RANSOMWARE?  “WARE” DOES IT STOP?

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the past 25 years, you’ve encountered one of these nasty computer infections.  They’ve gotten more complex and more ruthless over time but most people still don’t know their adware from their malware or what they can do to best protect themselves.

ADWARE

The grand-daddy of internet annoyances.  Adware is any program that is designed to display or download advertising materials while you are online, like those annoying and endless pop-up ads from the early days.  A reputable anti-virus program will keep the programs off your machine, and a pop-up blocker (built into all modern web browsers) keeps those annoyances to a minimum.

MALWARE

Less about making money and more about causing harm and havoc.  Malware is software that is designed to damage your system, pure and simple.  The “mal” is short for “malice.”  As with adware, a good anti-virus program will keep most malware at bay, and a good firewall and secondary malware program (like Malwarebytes) can keep your machine safe.

SPYWARE

Once scammers realized there was money to be made on the internet with your personal information, they began producing programs that could either trick you into giving up sensitive information, or stealing it right out from under your nose.  Most spyware infections go on right under your nose, so a good anti-virus program and firewall are ESSENTIAL at keeping your information safe.

RANSOMWARE

Ransomware is ruthless and utterly destructive.  It can attack a machine using little-known loopholes and lock you out of everything on the machine.  They’re often displayed with a countdown clock, advising you to pay them a ransom or they will shut down access to your machine forever.  Unfortunately, even after paying several hundred dollars in ransom, it is unlikely you will get your machine unlocked.  And even more unfortunate is few anti-viruses and firewalls can prevent the infection.  You need to install updates as soon and as regularly as you can if you want to stay safe.  It’s also best to make frequent back-ups of your most important files and store them in the cloud so if your machine is affected, your files stay safe.

It’s a scary world out there, and scammers are smarter than ever.  But the industry that fights back is fighting hard every day to keep you safe.  Help keep yourself safe by running a reliable anti-virus program, regular malware scans, ensuring your firewall is up-to-date, and backing up your files on a regular basis.  The best offense is a strong defense!