Malware, which is tech-jargon for malicious software, is menacing software authored by clever programmers to covertly download itself on to your computer through sly Internet means, and then perform secret operations without the owner’s informed consent. Usually they will “piggyback” on innocent-looking web page components or web searches and otherwise-benign software such as game demos, MP3 players, search toolbars, free subscriptions, and other things you download from the web.

Malware is a direct cousin to viruses with a broader portfolio of wicked intentions, and includes spyware, dishonest adware, root kits, worms and backdoor Trojan horses to name a few. Once in place, malware may log your keystrokes, steal your passwords, observe your browsing choices, spawn pop-up windows, send you targeted email, hijack your web browser and redirect you to advertising/phishing pages, report your personal information to distant servers, and serve up pornography. One common method disguises itself as a rogue anti-virus or internet security program, which appears to automatically run a scan, and finds infections on your machine in every folder possible. When you attempt to cancel or stop these scans, you either get prompted that you are infected and need their software, or the annoying program returns to “scanning” within minutes. Of course to remove these “infections”, you have to purchase their product; the end result – you losing your money and rendering your computer useless.

Malware can operate invisibly, often without displaying itself in your Task Manager or disabling many of the administrative features that allow you to stop its processes. To top it off, malware usually refuses to be uninstalled through your control panel, is designed to be undetected by legitimate anti-virus software and requires special tools to delete them from your drive.

No PC user is immune to malware due to its stealth properties. There are several steps you can take to prevent malware from being downloaded onto your computer:

• Be aware of how your computer is operating. Unusual activity or sudden slowness can be a red flag for malware

• Set your Internet browser so that you are notified anytime a program attempts to download.

• Don’t download software or programs from unknown Web sites. These seemingly innocent programs may contain malware that will install on your computer when the original program is installed.

• Read the fine print when downloading programs. Those user licenses seem boring and repetitive at times, but there can be a wealth of information in them as well, such as giving a company permission to place malware in the form of adware or spyware on your computer.

• If you suspect malware presence, contact Relia-Tech and let the experts free your PC of infection!