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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 102: Rescue Your PC from Malware

Level Medium

Platform Windows

Cost Free

The scourge of personal computing is malware: malicious software that installs itself without your consent and undermines your computer’s operation for various nefarious purposes, ranging from identity theft to aggressive advertising to common vandalism.

There are several different types of malware, but none of them is desirable:

  • Spyware tracks what you do on your computer and sends information about that back to its originating service, which then uses that information to target ads to you, or worse, steal your credit card or identity.
  • Adware pops up constant, unwanted advertising on your computer even when you’re not browsing the Web, interrupting your work.
  • Browser hijackers take over your web browser’s site requests and redirect them to unintended websites, usually advertisements.
  • Viruses are a different animal than spyware, but just as destructive and usually spread via email (but not always). They can also wreak havoc on your PC’s files and operation, and replicate by emailing themselves to all the addresses in your contacts list.

Symptoms

Some unexpected behaviors you may see on a malware-infected system include the following:

  • Constant advertising pop-ups
  • Unfamiliar or unknown programs running in the taskbar (that may or may not log your activity on the computer)
  • Unknown web browser toolbars, or plug-ins that cause web pages to redirect to unintended websites automatically
  • An overall system ...

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