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Malware, short for malicious software, is an umbrella term for spyware, adware, viruses, worms, ransomware, and Trojan horses.  Malware can be used to disrupt computer operation, gather data, gain access to a computer system, attack a remote system, or distribute spam. 

Spyware: Software that is installed on a computer that monitors activity, and covertly sends data from the hard drive to a data collector on the Internet.

Adware: Software that automatically displays ads on a user’s computer.

Virus: code that is attached to a legit program and can copy itself to other programs. It is used to corrupt an operating system or other software, or destroys data.

Worm: Similar to a virus, but does not need to attach itself to another program.

Ransomware: Software that blocks access to a computer until a sum of money is paid.  This works by encrypting files on your computer, and holding the encryption key until you pay the attacker.

Trojan horse: A program that represents itself as a benign application.  Trojan horses will often be advertised as anti-virus software, or “speed boosting” software. 

Malware is generally installed by executing a downloaded file, or by visiting a website with malicious code via Java, ActiveX, etc. 

All WKU owned computers have Symantec Endpoint Protection installed, and it is managed from a central server.  This software helps to protect computers from malware, but is not 100% effective.  Computer users at WKU should follow some basic guidelines to reduce the risk of installing malware on WKU owned and personally owned computers.

  • Do not click on links or open attachments in email that is from someone you don’t know.  Even if you do know the sender, do not click on or open anything that seems out of the ordinary.
  • If you follow a link and you are asked for logon information, do not enter your information. For example, if you receive an email from your bank that contains a link to log on to your account, don’t do it.  Go directly to your bank’s website and logon there.
  • Do not browse to websites that contain illegal content such as pirated software and movies/music.  
  • Do not install software from untrusted sources. 


If you have any questions about software that you have downloaded, or plan to download, please contact the IT Helpdesk 

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 Last Modified 2/5/15