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20130802 MalwareMalware includes unwanted programs, such as adware, spyware, and viruses, that get on a computer or laptop. Adware causes pop-ups and other unwanted advertisements that attempt to sell something to the computer user. Spyware tracks the user’s computer activity, such as the websites that are visited, and reports it back to an unknown recipient. Viruses may corrupt files, slow down your computer, or damage your computer to the point that it will not even boot up.

A computer can be infected by malware through simple activities such as browsing the Internet, downloading a file, opening an email attachment, or using a USB drive that has been infected by another computer. In order to prevent malware infections, you should always have strong antivirus protection on your computer.

When you purchase a new computer, you will probably receive a free 30- or 90-day antivirus trial. When the trial ends, you can purchase a yearly subscription for the antivirus that came with your computer or for a different antivirus product. Some of the highest ranking antivirus products include Bit Defender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky AntiVirus, AVG Antivirus Professional, and Norton Antivirus. These antivirus subscriptions usually range from $30 to $60 a year.

What if you don’t wish to purchase antivirus software? There are companies that offer free versions of their software for personal computers. Although free antivirus products do not provide as many features as paid versions, there are some very good products available, such asAvast Free Antivirus, AVG Anti-Virus Free 2013, Avira Free Antivirus, and Bit Defender Antivirus Free Edition.

Before you choose an antivirus product, you should research their different features and select the product that best fits your needs. Once you make your selection, you will need to download the software from the company’s website or install it from a disk. You willprobably need to provide your email address so that the company can send you an activation code. Once you activate the software, you should use the recommended settings, which typically include automatic updates and threat detection at startup.

If your computer is running slowly or behaving abnormally, you can manually update the antivirus definitions and run a scan. The antivirus software will then notify you of any malware detections and ask you for permission to remove the malicious files.

In a severe case, you might need to take your computer to a computer technician to restore your computer to normal operation following an infection. This can be inconvenient and costly, so it is best to always update your antivirus and use recommended settings as prevention against malware infections.

Francisco Martinez III is a Computer and Information Technologies student at South Texas College.

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