Most of the campus community relies on computers to remain productive.  From word processing to spreadsheets or even just checking your e-mail, we expect our computers to turn-on and run each morning when we press the power button. Thankfully, most of the time they do, but what happens when they don’t? Many things could cause your computer to run poorly but a common issue we encounter here at the CHFA IT Help Desk are viruses. Even with the McAfee VirusScan software provided by the University, malicious software (“malware”) can sometimes still get through and negatively affect your computer’s performance. Recently, malware programmers have become increasingly clever and have now begun to model their software to mimic legitimate programs such as Windows Security Center. So, when warnings start popping up stating that your computer is infected here are a few tips to determine if you should really believe what they are saying.

        The easiest way to spot malware posing as a virus protection program is to pay attention to what the program is warning you about. Many of these programs hijack your web browser and will warn you not to go to a certain site because it will harm your computer. So, next time you visit http://www.umass.edu and your antivirus program is telling you that your computer will become infected, something is wrong. Another thing to pay attention to is your homepage when you open your browser. When these malware programs hijack your browser, they often change your homepage to advertise their product. When people buy these fake anti-virus programs, they are allowing this malware to thrive on their system instead of preventing it. Perhaps you are thinking to yourself that these malware programmers are really smart if they can pull off stuff like this. Not necessarily. It seems that they generally have difficulties with spelling and grammar. If the alert you are seeing says something along the lines of, “Werning, Antivirus is inable for pertikshon” it’s a major clue that something is wrong. Genuine Microsoft or Apple software will never have mistakes like these since they pay people millions of dollars each year to correct them.If you find that your computer is infected by one of these programs, please contact the CHFA IT Help Desk.  We will run McAfee VirusScan, which can be downloaded for free from the University at: http://www.oit.umass.edu/security/software/index.html. VirusScan usually cleans most of the common viruses and malware. VirusScan can perform regular scans by itself and update its virus definitions automatically. The best defense against viruses, however, is to stay perceptive to any changes to your computer. You know how your computer behaves when it is healthy so noticing any changes can help to minimize trouble and keep you productive.   


- Andrew Laporte